Diego Costa may be on the verge of ending his self-imposed exile from Chelsea with suggestions in Spain that he is increasingly inclined to return to London in a bid to speed a transfer to Atlético Madrid.
The forward has been in Brazil all summer after receiving a text message from the Chelsea head coach, Antonio Conte, informing him that he is no longer in the club’s plans. The Premier League champions insist they told Costa and his representative in January that he would be surplus to requirements after Costa agitated mid-season for a lucrative move to the Chinese Super League.
Chelsea, who secured Álvaro Morata for a club record fee as a replacement, had permitted Costa to sit out the pre-season tour of China and Singapore in the belief a deal would be struck with Atlético for the disaffected player to move back to Madrid, whom he left for £32m in July 2014.
However, with the situation complicated by the Spanish club’s transfer ban and a compromise over a fee proving elusive, the 28-year-old refused his employer’s demands to return to Cobham and began training on his own in his Brazil hometown of Lagarto. He is understood to be incurring fortnightly fines while he continues to remain absent without leave.
The clubs failed to agree a deal before the closure of the Spanish transfer window on Friday – Chelsea had hoped to recoup as much as £49m for the forward’s signature – but can still negotiate the player’s sale over the next few months with a view to Costa featuring for Atlético when they can register players again – after their ban expires in January.
However, both clubs are understood to have impressed upon the player the need to return to London and reintegrate himself into professional football, with Atlético – rivals in Chelsea’s Champions League group – keen to ensure he is fit enough to make an impact with them over the second half of the campaign.
The striker has been in regular contact with some of his team-mates at Stamford Bridge and is believed to have suggested he would be willing to return, perhaps this month, even in the knowledge he will be excluded from the first-team and would have to train with Chelsea’s development side. There were reports on Tuesday night in Spain that he was about to return to London, though Chelsea insisted they were unaware of the player’s plans.Costa, who won two Premier League titles in his three full seasons at Chelsea and boasts 52 goals from 89 league appearances, has been included in the club’s 25-man squad list for the championship defence but is lacking match fitness and, regardless, will not feature again under Conte. He was omitted from the Champions League squad, not least to avoid him being cup-tied should he finally move to Atlético .
The Spain national team manager, Julen Lopetegui, has already publicly warned the forward that he risks missing the World Cup in Russia next summer if his future is not resolved.