Chelsea have yet to pay the £32 million required to trigger the release clause of Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, fuelling speculation that Jose Mourinho is having second thoughts over the deal. Is there a chance that the Blues’ boss is waiting to discover whether Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is available before handing over the cash for the Brazil-born Spain international?
Atletico president Enrique Cerezo told reporters this week: “Chelsea have made contact but we haven’t received any money or anything else yet. Until we do, [Costa] remains an Atletico player.”
This is despite the fact Costa completed a medical back at the beginning of this month. It didn’t take this long for Chelsea to complete the signing of Costa’s Spain teammate Cesc Fabregas earlier this month, so what’s the hold up?
REAL MADRID TO SELL BENZEMA?
According to reports, Real Madrid will make Colombia international Radamel Falcao their new Galactico this summer, rather than Liverpool’s Luis Suarez. The AS Monaco striker, who spent two successful seasons with Real’s local rivals Atletico Madrid before leaving the Vicente Calderon in 2013, looks set to become the new first-choice forward at the Bernabeu ahead of Karim Benzema.
Benzema, who has just enjoyed his best season as a Real Madrid player and has scored three goals in two matches for France at the World Cup finals in Brazil, will not be prepared to play second-fiddle to Falcao and will inevitably consider his options if these latest reports prove to be true.
The 26-year-old has already been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool in recent months, but Benzema knows Mourinho - and the lure of Chelsea is arguably stronger, at this moment of time, than either of the other interested Premier League clubs.
BENZEMA: MORE RELIABLE THAN COSTA
Costa was expected to shine at the World Cup finals in his native Brazil for his adopted nation Spain. But the 25-year-old was disastrous in his two appearances, leaving many Chelsea supporters - and perhaps even Mourinho himself - feeling a little uneasy about the impending transfer to take him to Stamford Bridge.
Benzema, on the other hand, has shown the world his undoubted class on the biggest stage. Last season he scored 24 goals in 52 appearances for Los Blancos - and has netted at least 20 goals in every season for the Spanish giants barring his debut campaign in 2009-10.
There are fears that Costa could be a one-season wonder. Although he scored a remarkable 36 goals in 52 appearances for Atletico last season, doubts remain over his ability to fire Chelsea to titles starting next season.
COSTA: MORE TEMPERAMENTAL THAN BENZEMA
Another issue which may concern Mourinho about Costa is the striker’s suspect temperament. The South American spends most matches involved in some sort of confrontation with the opposition - and, at times, looks like a red card waiting to happen.
Benzema, meanwhile, is a cool customer who is used to the big occasions. Mourinho knows the Frenchman will not react to being antagonised by defenders, unlike the Atletico Madrid star, who will feel out of his comfort zone during the opening weeks - and possibly months - of his Chelsea tenure.
BENZEMA TO CHELSEA MAKES SENSE
Chelsea on the lookout for a world-class striker and few would argue that Benzema falls into that category. With Costa, however, big doubts remain over his quality. He is the bigger risk. A risk that could pay off, admittedly, but a gamble nonetheless.
It makes perfect sense for Mourinho to wait and see whether Real Madrid sign Falcao. That, in turn, will give Chelsea the green light to make their move for the £40m-rated Benzema.
Chelsea fans: Watch some of Benzema's best moments in the video below. Would you prefer the France international? Leave a comment in the box below.