With Alvaro Morata joining Chelsea, what is next for Diego Costa?

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With Alvaro Morata arriving at Chelsea, Antonio Conte’s squad is gradually taking shape ahead of the new season.

The Real Madrid forward will become the Stamford Bridge side’s fourth first-team signing behind Willy Caballero, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko after a fee was agreed.

But what does Morata’s arrival and the fact Conte is thought to be seeking another forward mean for last season’s leading scorer Diego Costa?
Despite netting 58 goals during his three years in West London, the Spain international is very much out of favour. Skysports.com’s Andrew Dickson takes a look…

Does Morata’s arrival mean Chelsea will now sell Costa?

It’s not as simple as that, due in part to the fact Chelsea are short of forwards. While Morata is coming in, that only means Loic Remy should now be allowed to leave, with both Lille and Marseille keen. Once he goes, the only other senior striker at Conte’s disposal as things stand is Michy Batshuayi, another player linked with a move away from the Premier League champions – albeit only on loan – despite his strong finish to what was a largely frustrating first season for him in England. Conte is understood to be keen on Swansea’s Fernando Llorente and Crystal Palace attacker Christian Benteke but is not close to signing either player as yet.
With that said, there is still plenty to support the theory Costa’s time with Chelsea is coming to a close. Conte’s text to him saying he was no longer in his plans after last season finished is the most obvious indicator, with his omission from the squad which is playing pre-season matches in China and Singapore another. Indeed, the player was still on holiday in Brazil this week and has not yet reported back to Cobham for training.
Conte’s relationship with Costa deteriorated considerably through 2016/17, with the player himself admitting it had been bad. Things weren’t helped by the situation which saw Costa miss a game against Leicester in January with what Chelsea claimed at the time was a back injury, just as Tianjian Quanjian were attempting to lure the player to Chinese football on a deal worth £30m a year. Costa later trained on his own, with no urgency from Conte to restore peace, before starting a week later and getting the opener in a 2-0 home win over Hull. Costa went on to score five more times as the title was won but lasting damage had been done and recent footage of the player partying in an Atletico shirt and appearing to mock Conte on social media has done further harm.
Do Atletico still want him?

They do, but are so far unwilling to pay what Chelsea want for him. They know they are the only club Costa would leave Stamford Bridge for and are therefore unlikely to have competition for the forward’s signature. As such, Sky sources understand the Spanish side are only prepared to part with around £25m for Costa – half of the £50m Chelsea are thought to want for the 28-year-old. Of course, there was that interest from China but clubs there now have to pay 100 per cent tax on any deals for foreign players worth more than £5.2m. With Chelsea seeking several times more than that, it was notable no Super League sides moved for the forward before their mid-season transfer window closed last week. That means there’s no prospect of a bidding war for Atletico to contend with – and as such they are in a stronger position to dictate what they might pay for a player who has already been told he is not wanted any more in London. With Atletico offering one figure and Chelsea wanting another, it may well be they will have to meet in between.
But are Atletico not banned from signing players just now?

Not exactly. They aren’t prohibited from signing new players, the issue is they are not permitted to register any squad additions to play. Atletico were banned last summer from registering players for two transfer windows due to a breach of FIFA rules over the signing of minors, with the first of those in January this year. Atletico later took their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland in an attempt to have the punishment cut in half, just as Real Madrid were able to do last December. Their appeal was dismissed, however, meaning Atletico remain unable to register new players until the winter transfer window opens in January 2018.

They could feasibly sign new players then not play them in the same way Barcelona did during their own two-window ban in 2015. In that period, Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal moved to the Nou Camp during the summer transfer period from Atletico and Sevilla for a combined cost of £36.3m but did not play any club football for several months until the ban expired in January 2016. After simply training with their team-mates instead, they were then registered along with 75 other players as Barca enhanced their first team, B squad and youth sides.
Could Atletico find a way around their ban to get Costa playing now?

Not for them, no. The ban is very straightforward in the sense it dictates they cannot register new players until January so even if he does return to the club he left for Stamford Bridge three years ago, he still won’t be allowed to play for them straightaway. Atletico could, however, sign Costa then loan him out, potentially to Tianjian Quanjian after their failed moves to recruit him earlier this year, although Costa is understood to have no interest in playing in China despite repeated advances from the Far East. In fact, he only wants to play for Atletico if he is to leave Chelsea but a short-term stay elsewhere could provide a platform to what he desires in the long run.

A case which will be of interest is that of former Sevilla winger Vitolo, who has joined Atletico this summer but will spend the first half of the season at his hometown side Las Palmas before switching to the Wanda Metropolitano. In effect, the arrangement is a loan deal but it’s one which exploits loopholes in order to get around FIFA regulations stating a player must be registered by a parent club first before being loaned to another. Vitolo essentially paid his own release clause of £33.63m – reportedly with Atletico’s help – meaning he could join them as a free agent but defer his registration in Madrid and sign a six-month deal with Las Palmas, all of which might push moral boundaries but seems to be within the rules. With Sevilla threatening Vitolo with legal action, there might be reluctance from Costa about doing the same thing again but – crucially – it appears possible to force a move that way.
One factor worth considering on that front is Costa does not want an extended period on the sidelines. The World Cup finals are now less than a year away and the only matches he would be eligible to play in during the remainder of 2017 were he to join Atletico and stay there are internationals, of which there are just four qualifiers for the finals in Russia scheduled at present.

The striker is yet to make a big impact a major tournament. Costa was in Spain’s squad for their dismal defence of the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 but was substituted in each of their first two games as they lost to the Netherlands and Chile before he was left out of their last match, a win against Australia. He was also overlooked for the Spanish squad which went to Euro 2016 and has unfinished business to tend to.
Costa was asked last month about the prospect of going without football for so long in a World Cup year and said: “To not play for four or five months is a bit difficult. People know I love my Atletico team-mates and I love to live in Madrid but I also need to think about my future. I always want to play and to be part of the Spain national team. There’s a lot to consider – I need to play, that’s it.”

Is there any way back for Costa at Chelsea?

It doesn’t look like it. Of course, that was the case in January too but he went on to play another 20 times – 18 of them as a starter – after the fall-out around the Leicester game so he has found a way back before. It is thought Conte has now lost patience with Costa, however, and unlike past situations at Chelsea where star names have gone over the manager’s head to owner Roman Abramovich about any disharmony, the Italian has complete control of squad matters and that will still be the case after Conte signed a new two-year contract with the club on Tuesday. It appears very much as though Costa has played his last game for Chelsea.
The question now is how to move him on. Doing something reminiscent of the Vitolo scenario might just suit all parties but there is much negotiating to be done before that might happen. Another solution could be for Chelsea to loan Costa out this summer before Atletico make their move when they are able to register players again but most sides seeking to borrow the forward would likely want him for a full campaign rather than half of one, with the likes of Las Palmas in an accommodating minority. With Costa having just two years left on his deal, running that down to one next summer before selling isn’t something Chelsea will favour due to the fact they will risk getting less money for him when it looks like they are already going to have to compromise on his transfer fee. It’s a quandary for all sides and a complicated situation which is still short of being resolved.Euro Soccer Bonus

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