Costa: Chelsea have treated me like a criminal
Exiled Chelsea star Diego Costa has given a withering assessment of head coach Antonio Conte and accused the Premier League champions of treating him as if he were a "criminal".
Costa was Chelsea's top scorer with 20 goals as they secured a second league title in three years last season but Conte has since informed the Spain international he does not feature in his first-team plans.
The manner of this rejection provides a major flash point in the current stand-off, with Costa claiming Conte dumped him via text message when he was away on international duty in June.
Chelsea maintain the 28-year-old forward has been aware of their plans since January, around the time he was heavily linked with a move to Tianjin Quanjian in the Chinese Super League.
The upshot is Costa going AWOL, back to his hometown of Lagarto in Brazil, where UK newspaper the Daily Mail tracked him down at his family home while watching the Blues' shock 3-2 defeat to Burnley.
A return to former club Atletico Madrid remains the desired option for Costa, who is presently racking up fines as he refuses to return to Chelsea and train with the reserves.
"I wouldn't be allowed access to the first-team dressing room and I would have no contact at all with the guys," he explained. "I'm not a criminal! I don’t think it is fair after all I have done to be treated like that.
"They gave me a week extra off [at the start of pre-season training] but since then it's fines all the way.
"They want me training with the reserves. I am not going to do that. I am not a criminal and I am not in the wrong here. So, if they need to fine me, let them fine me."
Atletico's player registration ban would prevent Costa from playing for them until January but the forward is willing to remain out of action for as long as it takes his Chelsea ordeal to play out.
"I am open to being a year in Brazil without playing, even if Chelsea fine me for a year and don't pay me," he said.
"I'll come back stronger. If I was in the wrong, I'd go back now and do as they say.
"My desire is to go to Atletico. I’ve spoken to Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia. I said, 'If the manager doesn't want me, I want to go to Atletico Madrid'.
"I have rejected other offers. They want to sell me to China or other teams. If I'm off, I'm going to the club I want to go to - not the club that's paying the most."
Costa claimed to have been on the verge of signing a new contract at Stamford Bridge but accused Conte of "putting the brakes on" and sees no prospect of reconciliation with the Italian, who brought in club-record signing Alvaro Morata as his replacement.
"His ideas are very fixed and clear," Costa said of Conte. "I have seen the sort of person he is. He has his own opinion and that will not change.
"I respect him as a great coach. He has done a good job and I can see that, but as a person, no. He is not a coach who is very close with his players. He is very distant. He doesn't possess charisma."
As for the infamous text message, that is set to remain on Costa's phone for posterity.
"There are ways of going about it. You don't do it by text message. You should be honest and direct to someone's face," he added.
"I was angry at the time. Now I am more calm. I have not deleted the message. If people accuse me of lying, I can show them."