Costa revelation may cost Chelsea

LONDON • Diego Costa's decision to make public an exchange of text messages with manager Antonio Conte, in which the Italian apparently confirmed the striker has no future with Chelsea, could end up costing the Premier League champions millions of pounds.

Potential suitors are now aware the Spain forward is unsettled at Stamford Bridge. Costa has said he will "have to find a way out", given his relationship with Conte and the club has effectively been fractured beyond repair.

Yet Chelsea have made clear to the Spaniard that he will not be permitted to negotiate his own exit and, instead, the club will take the lead in overseeing the departure of a player whose contract has two years to run.

Chelsea initially hoped to sell Costa to Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian for £76 million (S$133.86 million).

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But their chances of generating such a fee, which could have been reinvested in the pursuit of Everton's Romelu Lukaku, have been complicated by the player's comments to the media after Spain's 2-2 draw with Colombia on Wednesday.

Chelsea's bargaining position with possible buyers could now be undermined.

Costa could even pursue the payment of a loyalty bonus if sold, given he has not formally asked for a transfer.

The 28-year-old indicated in the aftermath of Chelsea's 1-2 loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup final last month that he would resist any prospect of a move to China before next year's World Cup.

Another plausible option may be a move to Serie A club AC Milan and Costa's agent, Jorge Mendes, is also believed to have been in Italy on Thursday to speak with the club over summer recruitment.

Chelsea always envisaged adding to their forward ranks this summer, and had hoped to persuade Everton to drop their £100 million valuation of Lukaku.

But that price may rise now that their eagerness to shift Costa has been exposed.

The Premier League champions retain an interest in Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk, who is no longer under immediate consideration by Liverpool, and will seek to purchase a back-up goalkeeper to replace Asmir Begovic.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'Costa revelation may cost Chelsea'. Print Edition | Subscribe