The one thing that seems certain in this whole Diego Costa ... I don’t even know what to call it ... thing (?) is that no one outside of Costa, Costa’s agent, and maybe by now Antonio Conte seems to know what is actually going on. There are roughly three divergent plot lines to this pulp fiction (back issue? bust-up? China?), possibly converging on one flashpoint like some long lost fourth movie in Iñárritu’s Death Trilogy.
The “facts” as we know them are the following (the why and the how is where the drama lies of course):
- Diego Costa did not train (for much of) last week
- Diego Costa did not travel to Leicester and thus did not play
- Diego Costa trained on his own at Cobham on Monday
Here’s picture proof of Monday’s development — no fake news here! — which you’ve no doubt seen spun into sensationalist headlines.
As usual, Chelsea had the day off on Monday, which explains why Costa was there by himself. Isn’t this a good thing? He’s putting in the effort to get better and get his back in order, no? That’s what I’m seeing. There’s even some evidence to “support” this line of thinking, buried deep within the following report of palpable discord by the Guardian’s Dom Fifield.
“That left [Costa] working on his own at Cobham, and later than the rest of the squad, last week and over the weekend, albeit he has been complying with the rehabilitation programme stipulated by the medical staff.”
It’s standard procedure to have injured players working separately and that right there says Costa’s complying with the programme from the training staff with whom he supposedly had this BLAZING ROW. Remember BLAZING ROW? That’s what started it all!
Other reports, like this one in the Star from David Woods also run with this angle, saying that Costa has been rehabbing for at least two days, appearing to “be in good spirits” while doing all this work for the people for whom he apparently would never want to play for again. According to the Star, he even “stayed behind to put away equipment after the session.” Of course, if you’re the Mail, that action is seen as grueling punishment — “[Costa] collected his own balls and moved free-kick apparatus around by himself” reads the caption to that now famous photo with the bright yellow free-kick training wall.
Speaking of collecting balls, the non-training angle for this story now seems to involve Conte putting his foot down and not bothering to hold any cuddly-wuddly talks with Costa and just getting back to the business of training. But was there ever going to be any talks in the first place? If Conte truly believed that the only real issue here is Costa’s bad back, then what would be the point of them anyway? Talks that probably weren’t going to be held are now not going to be held! Shock. Awe.
Another way to look all this is in terms of “player power”, which is an accusation that’s been level at Chelsea a fair few times over the years. Costa (and agent) vs. Conte (and hugs), to the death! This is the angle that the Telegraph’s Jason Burt takes. Matt Law chimed in on Twitter as well, though unfortunately he did not attach the picture of Costa with the free kick dummies to his tweet, thus immediately invalidating it.
I'm really impressed at how Conte is dealing with the Costa situation. No chance of any player power under him.— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) January 16, 2017
(Of course, the real power is actually in the owner’s box. There’s no player power. Only owner power. But I digress.)
The upshot of all of this is that Diego Costa’s days at Chelsea are apparently numbered. In a way, that always was going to be the case and I don’t mean just in the metaphysical sense. After all, Costa was close to leaving last summer and, pending Atlético’s transfer ban situation, was probably going to be just as close, if not closer to leaving next summer, too. This is why the rumors of a possible contract extension were received with such palpable excitement (same goes for Courtois, but even more importantly). We didn’t think he was going to stay, so now you’re saying he might? And he’s pouring in the goals, by the way? Sign him up!
Maybe all that was too good to be true anyway. It’s not like Chelsea haven’t been linked with big money strikers all along, right?
So, what I’m trying to say, I think, is that there is a chance all this talk of bust-ups and BLAZING ROWs (yes, it has to be in all caps, that’s the law) is basically window dressing to the outcome that was always going to be the outcome — Diego Costa was likely to leave in the summer, remains likely to leave in the summer, will remain likely to leave in the summer. Title or no title, goals or no goals; this was already written.
Just to add weight to all that, here’s Miguel Delaney for the Independent with stories of Barcelona and Atlético circling and surveying. One might imagine that all of this drama is going down rather well at Atlético president Enrique Cerezo’s house.
Atletico will go back in for Costa to replace United-bound Griezmann, but face competition from Barca:https://t.co/qBbtypTiQl— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) January 16, 2017
The China offer may be real, it may be not — there’s a hilarious line about “no formal offer” in one of the recent reports from the Mail. The bust-up may be real, it may be not. Chances are, Costa will see out the rest of the season with Chelsea and then be on his merry way. Just as he was always going to be.
And, if you’re Simon Johnson, just as it should be. (“Never” is a strong word, especially compared to Drogba who looked to be leaving on multiple occasions in his nine years at Chelsea, but I suppose the main question becomes, as with any other player, is he worth the trouble? If the price for his goals is that we have to play hardball with him a couple times a season, is that worth it? All players have to be managed to a certain extent — we only have to look at JT and his contract nonsense last year — maybe Costa just needs more hugs and whatnot.)
Did I say this was going to be positive? Oh well.