Chelsea-bound star labelled Ballon d’Or contender

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Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone believes star striker Diego Costa, who will reportedly secure a €60m move to Chelsea this summer, is an early contender for the 2014 Ballon d’Or award.

Costa has scored 34 goals in 45 appearances for Atletico this season, 26 of which have come in La Liga. The Brazil-born Spain international’s goals have left Simeone’s side top of the league table with five matches remaining - and Atletico supporters are starting to believe the seemingly impossible could become a reality next month.

Atletico have not won a La Liga title since 1996, but Simeone has transformed the team since arriving from Racing in 2011. And the ex-Argentina international believes Costa will be fighting it out alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for world football’s most prestigious individual award next January.

"He has room for improvement,” Simeone is quoted as saying by AS. “He's rebellious and I like that and he's something different. Hopefully his development won't end. Right now he's among the candidates for the Ballon d'Or."

Simeone says he is not surprised to hear that Chelsea are interested in signing Costa, 25, who is currently La Liga’s second-top scorer, one goal ahead of Messi but two behind Ronaldo. And the South American admitted that it will be the player himself who will ultimately decide whether he wants to stay at the Vicente Calderon or move to Stamford Bridge this summer.

"His future depends on him and what he feels is best for his future," Simeone added. "It's normal that Chelsea are interested in him. They are an economic power, Samuel Eto'o is getting older and Costa can do his work, but right now he's ours."

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is reportedly desperate to land Costa, who is top of the Portuguese coach’s summer wish-list, in the hope that he can solve the Blues’ striking problems.

As well as Eto’o, Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku could all leave the west London outfit at the end of the season.

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