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What’s next for Diego Costa and Chelsea?

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Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Diego Costa revealed last night that he’s been told he’s surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge by Antonio Conte via a text message (Conte certainly living up to the “very cold” decision-making he warned about at the end of the season). So what does that mean?

For one, it adds even more weight to the Romelu Lukaku rumors. It probably helps Michy Batshuayi’s prospects for sticking around as well. But what about Costa? What in the world is going on there? Is this a culmination of the last six months of rumor mongering? Did he really get blindsided by Conte’s message? What’s next in this suddenly complicated and awkward situation?

Cast your mind back to the FA Cup final, and not only to the strange substitution of Michy-for-Costa with Chelsea chasing the game, but Costa’s post-match comments that seemed to flip the entire China narrative that had been dominating the second-half of his season.

“If the club wants to sell me, they know where I want to go [...] I have a contract and no intention of leaving, but if there are changes to be made that might reduce my chances, if the coach won't count on me anymore or is to give space for another striker, I know that I'll have to leave.”

-Diego Costa; May 27

The story had been that China offered a bunch of money in January, Chelsea told them no, and Costa started sulking. But that didn’t fit with what Costa was saying. Could it be that it were Chelsea who actually were driving the China rumors? Many of the (vague) dispatches came via the trusty pen of the Telegraphs’ Matt Law and the other usual outlets for club-sourced stories after all.

We could in fact look at the events of January and flip our own narrative: Costa wasn’t sulking because Chelsea blocked his move; he was sulking because he learned that Chelsea were setting up a move for the end of the season, preferably to China (because money), but perhaps elsewhere. Chelsea’s well(?)-laid plans took a double hit when new regulations prevented Chinese clubs from spending big (and Costa not wanting to go) and Atlético Madrid’s transfer ban getting upheld and preventing them from re-signing Costa, at least until January.

That’s not to say the Costa is an innocent “victim” in this scenario. He and Conte certainly had at least a couple flashpoints, and while Conte went to great pains to smooth over all of that in public, who knows what exactly went on behind the scenes.

Viewed in that light, Costa’s comments since the end of the season make much more sense, while other comments such as Fàbregas urging Chelsea to keep “very necessary” Costa take on new meaning. What doesn’t exactly fit are things like Conte saying that we have keep our best players and calling Costa one of the best in the world. Of course, it could be that the Board are pushing for the Costa sale and Conte just agreed to deliver their message via the text message that Costa revealed last night.

There’s also the rumor that Chelsea offered Costa an extension, and that popped back up last night still. But in this new context, the extension makes very little sense at all.

Milan are an interesting name to throw into proverbial middle relief here. Rumors earlier on Wednesday claimed an impending meeting between the Rossoneri and Jorge Mendes, agent to the stars like James Rodriguez. Mendes is also Costa’s agent. Milan’s new owners have been funding a buying spree, but would they be agreeable to a six-month loan for Costa before he moved to Atlético? Milan did do just that a few years ago with Fernando Torres, but those were different times, different owners, if not altogether different intentions from Chelsea and Atléti.

Presumably, Costa’s public comments were not part of any plan. In a way it reminds me of John Terry going to the media with his contract extension situation last season, forcing the club to choose between playing the villain or giving in to his demands. Costa going rogue is not exactly out of character, but it does create a very awkward situation where Chelsea are at a great disadvantage if we are to collect a reasonable transfer fee for Costa. Our options are either to eat his contract and Malouda him into the reserves or bite the bullet, sell at pennies on the dollar, and move on with our lives to the Lukaku era.

There’s a minor chance that this is some elaborate prank. Anybody know David Luiz’s whereabouts?

But probably not. What we probably witnessed last night was the end of Costa at Chelsea. Somehow it’s appropriate that his time at Stamford Bridge ends in drama.