Costa crying foul is a big joke: Conte

LONDON • Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has laughed off Diego Costa's suggestion that he has been treated like "a criminal" and says the striker is in "the past".

The 28-year-old Brazil-born Spain international, who signed for £32 million (S$56.2 million) from Atletico Madrid in July 2014 after agreeing to a five-year contract, wishes to re-sign for the LaLiga club.

Costa, who remains in his native Brazil, has insisted he will not return to Stamford Bridge and also accused the Chelsea manager of lacking charisma.

"It's great. I prefer to laugh," said Conte, who responded with humour at his pre-match press conference yesterday.

"I can tell you that everyone who was in Chelsea knows very well what happened last season with Diego."

Costa yesterday pleaded with Chelsea to lower their asking price to allow him to return to Atletico. The striker claims he was told he was not wanted by a text message sent by Conte during the off-season.

But the Blues insist it was decided in January, with the striker and his agent, Jorge Mendes, that Costa could leave this summer.

Costa still has two years remaining on his contract. As a consequence, he has been ordered by Chelsea to return to London, get himself match fit and make himself available for selection.

Asked if he would select Costa if he is fit to play, Conte said: "No. I'm not interested. I repeat: for me, it is the past."

With Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas suspended for tomorrow's Premier League match against Tottenham, Conte said Tiemoue Bakayoko could make his debut following his summer signing from Monaco.

The France midfielder had a slight knee injury when he joined the Blues.

"He's not at the top of physical condition, but he could be in contention for the game because at this moment I don't have other midfielders available," Conte said.

Victor Moses is available again following his one-match suspension. Pedro remains a major doubt, while fellow forward Eden Hazard is continuing his recovery from a broken ankle and is not available.

Tottenham will be without full-backs Kieran Trippier (ankle) and Danny Rose (knee), as well as midfielders Georges-Kevin NKoudou (foot) and Erik Lamela (hip).

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline 'Costa crying foul is a big joke: Conte'. Print Edition | Subscribe