Antonio Conte’s plot to sell Diego Costa has turned into quite the mess this summer.
Ever since cracks began to emerge in January, the relationship between the two loud personalities has been fractured at best. Despite Costa emerging as Chelsea’s top scorer last season, Conte has been adamant he has no future at the club.
The Italian’s decision to break the news over text proved an unwise decision too and Costa has been left in a state of the limbo. The Spaniard is waiting it out in Brazil, wanting an Atletico Madrid move that his club won’t currently allow.
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Moreover, Costa’s patience eventually snapped this week as part of an explosive interview with the Daily Mail. He lamented being treated like a ‘criminal’ and that Conte lacked ‘charisma’ as a manger.
Chelsea have given mixed signals in response, fining him two weeks’ wages but also offering him conditions under which he could leave for Atletico.
What is for sure, though, is that it’s a messy situation Chelsea would rather do without.
The Blues have endured a stagnant start to the season, being downed by Arsenal in the Community Shield and suffering a shock 3-2 defeat to Burnley. This is beyond the transfer concerns that Conte harboured in the first place.
And it’s almost certain that the Costa episode has permeated to the squad who, according to the Daily Mail, have been divided over the matter.
The exiled forward is in regular contact with Willian, David Luiz and compatriots Cesc Fabregas and Pedro.
In fact, Costa himself revealed: “If you were to ask all my team-mates, they'd say the same. They send messages saying "I miss you" and that they love me.
“I am always talking with the boys — particularly Cesc Fabregas, David Luiz and Willian. We have banter over WhatsApp.
“They ask how I am. They really love me for the person I am. If they didn't, they wouldn't be saying they miss me and love me.”
The harsher Conte treats Costa, the more distant certain factions in the squad may grow. Given the dressing room tensions that erupted during Jose Mourinho’s doomed title defence of 2015-16, Conte should tread lightly.
Besides, regardless of Costa playing up, you only have to look at Mourinho’s second spell and Carlo Ancelotti to see Roman Abramovich’s disregard for sentiment.
If the offloading of the club’s top scorer is to be resolved amicably, Conte will have to procure promising results and soon. Boss of the champions, yes, but his position is far from safe.
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