Matching reports from the usual suspects in the Telegraph (Matt Law), the Guardian (Dom Fifield), and even the Mail (Matt Barlow) normally means that the source is a club briefing. This is Chelsea telling their side of the story after Costa dropped the bombshell of Conte telling him to [FUN] off to China — no, wait, that was in January — telling him that he’s not wanted anymore and that he should find himself gainful employment somewhere else.
Here’s how the three sources describe the incident.
Telegraph Sport understands the exchange between the pair took place at the start of the week and it was Costa’s reply to advice over what he should be doing during the summer that provoked Conte. Costa responded to Conte’s message that he is not wanted by contacting board members to tell them that Chelsea will now have to sell him on his terms.
It is understood Conte had sent an initial message detailing what he expected of the player in terms of fitness work over the summer, with the indifferent tone of Costa’s response apparently prompting a follow-up which cast doubt on the player’s future.
While on holiday, Chelsea's manager sent a goodwill message to all his first-team players wishing them a happy time with their families and reminding them to do a bit of physical activity and stay in shape. Costa fired off a reply, not thought to have been openly provocative but enough to irritate Conte who sent back the message which left his striker in no doubt that he was no longer part of the plans at Chelsea.
While the three sources describe the same situation in varying degrees of sensationalism, they all agree that:
- Conte’s decision to essentially fire Costa via text was a surprise and it weakens Chelsea’s position in the market (both in selling Costa and buying Lukaku)
- Costa’s decision to air this exchange publicly was a surprise and is certainly not looked well upon, especially given his history of other incidents
- Granovskaia has made it clear to Costa that she’s in charge and he’s not going to set terms for his exit.
There are several interesting bits sprinkled in throughout the reports. Law for example talks about Conte’s private displeasure with Costa’s post-match beer drinking and even the half-time press lounge visit, both of which were played off to public merriment. The Guardian remind of Costa’s clashes with the fitness staff in January, as well as dubious complaints about a back injury all the way in pre-season as Conte first set to work on his famously repetitive and even boring training sessions. All three speak of a tenuous peace held together for the sake of winning the title, though Conte and Costa would hardly be the first football pairing to make things work on the pitch despite not seeing eye-to-eye off of it.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, reports in Spain (Marca, for example) claim that Costa’s meeting with Simeone back in November, immortalized on Instagram, already cast the die as far as Conte was concerned.
In any case, there seems to be no way back from this one, unlike the previous “BLAZING ROWS” and other such incidents. Granovskaia and the board are now feverishly working to make the most of the situation, and it sounds like we’re definitely banking on AC Milan’s interest being real and to the tune of £40m.