After three controversial years, Diego Costa is finally on his way out of Chelsea.
The striker has been a persona non grata at Stamford Bridge for months.
It all started in January, of course, when his head was turned by interest from Chinese Super League outfit Tianjin Quanjian.
According to widespread reports at the time, Antonio Conte told him to "go to China" during a heated training ground row.
The pair did go on to win the Premier League together, though the Spanish international wasn't quite the same in the second half of the season.
Within days of the campaign ending, he received a text from his manager along the lines of:
"Hi Diego, I hope you are well. Thanks for the season we spent together. Good luck for the next year but you are not in my plan."
Costa wasn't wanted
Very touching. It's hard to blame Conte for growing exasperated with the bolshy forward, who had become something of a pantomime villain among rival fans. It was only a matter of time before Chelsea got fed up with him too.
And so, as he heads back to Atletico Madrid in a deal which could cost the Rojiblancos as much as £67million, his legacy in west London is a pretty mixed one.
A goal tally of 59 in 120 is impressive, though he'll be remembered as much for his antics against Gabriel, Gareth Barry, and Emre Can as for his exploits with the ball.
Reflecting on his acrimonious departure, he admitted, via the Mirror:
"It's not the way I wanted to leave. I'm not a person who's going to smear the image."
Conte's final message
Given that the 28-year-old has spent the last few months in exile on a Brazilian beach, Conte could have chosen to dig him out publicly. Instead, in his press conference ahead of the trip to Stoke this weekend, the Italian had a classy parting message for his soon-to-be former employee.
“Don't forget we won something together last season," he told reporters.
"For sure we want to thank him for his efforts last season with us. Not only last season but in the whole period that he played for Chelsea.
“We wish him all the best for the future. But I am looking to the future now. I'm not interested to continue talking about this issue. I'm working with my players, I'm very happy to work with these players.”
Costa is returning to a club where he spent a total of six years across two previous spells, and where he'll no doubt be a huge asset to Diego Simeone's side if he can keep his cool.
Are Chelsea weaker without Diego Costa? Have your say in the comments.
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