For the past two months, the saga of Diego Costa and Antonio Conte has made regular headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. Having now reached the point of where legal threats are being made on both sides, resolution seems further away than ever before. Couple that with Costa’s adamant stance regarding his own future and Conte’s adamant stance that Costa is the past and there is no way back now, and we’re left with an untenable situation that’s only proving a distraction as Chelsea try to right the already listing ship in this early-season.
Following a statement released yesterday by Costa through the Sergipe Football Federation that made it sound like he was ready to show up, Peter Odemwingie-style, at the gates of Atletico Madrid and force a move, Diego sat down with ESPN Brasil to clarify (and row back a bit on) those words and all the other nonsense that has gone on this summer. Although he mostly just repeated what we already know.
"It was a misunderstanding. I have nothing set with Atlético. It is simply my wish if [my return to Chelsea] do not happen. I was at the Federation with its president and other people. And he asked what was my situation [with Chelsea], what had happened and why all this impasse with Chelsea and the manager Antonio Conte. We were sorting this out in the best way possible. I have a contract with Chelsea and I have a special affection with the club and their supporters, who have always treated me well.
"So, I could not be as selfish as to make such a bad thing [such as arranging terms with Atlético]. I think it was lack of respect. I am not being unprofessional. I think respect has to prevail above all. I have always had the affection of my teammates, we always had a good relationship. There are no reasons for me to train with the reserves. That was a situation that I made clear for the club. Since they do not let me train with the first team because the manager do not want me anymore I would not return until they solved my situation."
"And I made it clear the team that I would like to go to, if they do not want me anymore, is Atlético. I will not lie, and be selfish to say that this is not the case. Beyond that, nothing is set. I am speaking the truth. I am tired of this subject and I want to solve as soon as possible so I can get back to playing football, which is what I like the most."
Interesting emphasis on respect and professionalism, two qualities that Atletico captain Gabi publicly implored Costa to consider in his behaviour. Of course, in Costa’s world, the disrespecting was mostly done by Chelsea — “I do not deserve this treatment”, he says when asked about Chelsea’s wish that he return to train with the reserves (a.ka. “getting Malouda’d”).
While Diego freely admits that he pushed for a move to Atletico last summer (and a couple other times as well), that apparently is now all water under the bridge and it’s practically inconceivable — especially after Costa made sure to publicize Conte’s now infamous text — that Chelsea would want to rid themselves of him after three years of goals, controversies, and a near-constant angling to leave.
"I have every message, even the manager's, saved so I could [use] them one day if they try to go on this judicial path, which should not be necessary. Mainly because everyone in the club likes me. I have everything saved. If one day I have to use it, I will. As I said: I never wished for anyone's ill will, but I would not let anyone paint me as a fool, getting out of the situation as the good guy and myself as the bad one. I have the messages here. The message that was sent by Conte I then send it to director Marina. She wants to solve this situation and I am waiting for it to be solved as well."
"For all the affection and the story I made in these last three years, a beautiful story, I am waiting for things to be sorted out in the best way possible. Even for me to not stop playing for Chelsea. You never know what could happen in the future. That is why I will not and I do not want to get embroiled [in a judicial battle]. I just want them to think and make a good proposal of what will be my future. Because there is a World Cup in the horizon and I want to play it. And I have to work for that, to be called up. Because football is about the moment and, if you are not doing well, you will not go. I am the one who has been most harmed [in this situation] and it was not me who searched for this."
Costa making this strictly a Costa vs. Conte issue is notable, though he might be in for a surprise as Chelsea seem to be backing the coach fully on this and even if Conte weren’t there, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the club follow through on plans to sell him. Over the past decade, Chelsea had become infamous for being the plaything of “player power” but in this one instance at least, the club are firmly behind the head coach instead. It’s a refreshing change, though like any change, it’s not coming easy.
It would be a lot easier of course if Chelsea were able to sell Costa, but this is where the biggest problem lies currently, with no team willing to pay Chelsea’s asking price and the one team that may have been willing to do so now unable thanks to regulations (spending limits for Chinese Super League clubs). Not that Costa was willing to move to China anyway.
"Chelsea have offered me to many clubs. But I was clear to them. I said that since I am not part of the manager's plans, I want to choose my destiny. For them to get more money [out of me], I will not let them decide my destiny. Because when I arrived at the club they paid a fee well below the proposals that have arrived now. I think they have to be conscious [of that] and see everything I had done."
"It is not my fault that I am not [in England]. If it up to me, I would be playing. It has been a month already. Vacations are good, but tiresome. It was not me who provoked this situation. Since on this point the club have to think in two ways. Of course they have to have a return [from me], as I gave it to them in sporting and financial terms. After three years they will get a value above what they paid [for me]."
"Atlético already have a situation in previous years which went [against] my interests and since then there has been a misunderstanding between [Chelsea and themselves] because [Chelsea] thought they were calling me, making parties for me to return. When we knew the manager did not want me anymore, my agent got in touch to see if there was any interest on my return to Atlético. Of course, for the affection and respect I got, Atlético showed interest. But they would have to pay a fortune. Atlético are a club that are growing every year, they are a big club but they will not pay over the odds."
"I do not know how much money Chelsea are asking [for my transfer]. But my agent said Atlético will not be able to even touch the figures. The market is crazy these days..."
But there are now less than two weeks left in the transfer window and as the situation gets more desperate, Costa might even consider other options.
"If I return to Atlético, I will train and I do not know how it will go. I am talking about Atlético but in ten days this could change and I could join another club. They did not really make an effort to have me [back]. I could change and move to a club that bet on me. What I want is my situation to be solved as soon as possible and that [Chelsea] do not think only on the money, in the best offer but in my status. Because Atlético could arrive with a good offer because they could not count on me. If I were calm, training, I would dispute my situation on the tribunals. I know that if I return now it will not be this way. Now it is time to wait and ask God [for things to be sorted out]."
"What I wanted to say is that I already showed my affection and my interest in playing for Atlético. But if Atlético and Chelsea do not reach terms and Atlético do not make an extra effort, I will not long to play for a club that does not want to make this push [for me]. I know this will happen though. However if it is to pay what Chelsea demands, the switch will not happen. This has to be solved. What I know is that the offer [from Atlético] will be above what Chelsea paid when they got me. And I gave them a return in every way possible."
One thing is for certain however, a return to Chelsea is off the cards.
"I think many things happened. There was the first moment when he arrived where I said I wanted to go back to Spain. I will not lie, it was something I felt because of the hardships to adapt. I loved Chelsea but England, London, the language... I could not adapt. I was dependent on people. At that point he said it was not possible to let me go because there was only me [in the position]. I stayed."
"Chelsea are a top team. Leaving Chelsea... you know the structure they have, and the people there always fulfil their duties. It may have been that, I do not know. Or maybe my character, because it does not meet his. Particularly I think it could be all these things. I know things should not have gone through this way. I have no grievances. I think things could be treated in a different way. I believe that if things go well for Chelsea it will be easier for me to leave the club. I still think you need to ask him and not me why I am not in the team."
"There will be a bad atmosphere. It will not be the same as it once was. I do not know if the competition [for the striker position] will be fair because of this impasse, because of me exposing the message. I understand [Conte's] reasons to be upset. If I return, I also have to see if things will be clean, fair, correct. I like it that way.”
"If I return now, I believe it will not be a fair and honest challenge for me. Because of my delay [in the preparations], the mood... Every player that called me wished me luck. But I know we have a manager... He is a great manager, he made the team click... but he is there. Chelsea will challenge for the Champions League, the Premier League and they will fight for a title. We need to sit and sort out my situation. It has reached its ugly head. And no ‘little words’. He would need to say what he wants for us to solve the situation."
-Diego Costa; Source: ESPN Brasil
This concludes our walk on the wild side, inside Diego Costa’s mind.
Antonio, your thoughts?