What is next for Diego Costa?
Rewind your clocks and calendars by eight months, and you can see an emphatic Chelsea team leading the Premier League table on with a record 13 match winning streak. Leading from the front, having already scored 14 goals by the end of 2016, Diego Costa was the name on everyone's mind. Always the first name on the beloved manager's starting line-up, Costa, with Antonio Conte, was a match made in heaven.
Diego Costa has been a fan-favorite at Stamford Bridge in his three years at Chelsea, having already won them the title in 2014-15 season, a season that was full of goals for the fiery forward. Tall, powerful and aggressive, he was an influence on the pitch even if he did not score goals. His character was always appreciated by the Blues faithful and was regarded with special chants of "Diego Diego" by the fans.
But all good things come to an end, and Chelsea in the coming weeks lost to the closest rival, Tottenham Hotspur, which ended the winning streak. In and around the same time, rumours started floating from Far East about a potential and sensational transfer of Diego Costa to the cash-rich Chinese Super League. The Chelsea camp was shaken with the possibility of losing the centre-forward during the January window, which would have derailed their title challenge.
Much against the wishes of Costa, the Blues were able to hold on to their aggressive forward who looked like he was tempted by the high wages that were being offered. But the rumored transfer was not the only thing that was broken, the Conte-Costa bond also ended by the friction created, which was further catalysed by a heated argument between Costa and one of Conte's backroom staff.
As claimed repeatedly by the Blues manager Anotino Conte, a decision was made then, which was passed on to the club hierarchy and the player himself, that Diego was not in the plans for the next season and he could leave in the summer transfer window.
Fast forward seven months to August, and here we are with Chelsea having signed Alvaro Morata for club record fee as a direct replacement to Diego Costa. The talented young striker has big shoes to fill, as recently admitted by the skipper, Gary Cahill. Since then, Team Costa has accused Chelsea and Conte of various wrongs ranging from treating him like a 'criminal' to phasing him out of the side. These claims were laughed off by Antonio Conte and he suggested that the decision on Costa was not taken unilatreally, rather all the parties were well informed duly.
Diego Costa was linked all summer to Atletico Madrid, who were handed a transfer ban. That spoiled the dream transfer for Costa, who was always willing to head back to the club that shot him into prominence.
There was a variety of options explored, such as a loan deal for six months till January, when the transfer embargo ends for Atletico Madrid and then register Diego with the Spanish side, but much to the ado of Chelsea, no such deal materialized. Even Simeone has accepted that the club is not looking to sign Costa.
The only possible way out for Costa now stands in the shape of the sleeping European powerhouse A.C. Milan, who have been out searching for a new striker. Along with Diego, Patrick Aubameyang has been lined up for the same slot, and there have been public admissions by the hierarchy that the club is interested in signing these players.
Costa wants to decide his own future after being instrumental in the two title truimphs. "Chelsea have offered me to several clubs but I was very clear with them,” he said. “I said if I’m not part of the manager’s plans I would like to choose my destination. I’m not going to let them decide just to get more money.
“I think they should take into account everything I’ve done. It’s not my fault that I’m not at the club. If it was down to me I’d be playing. It’s already been one month. Holidays are good but it gets tiresome.”
However, it will be interesting to see how things pan out for Diego Costa, who is still a Chelsea player and is on a holiday in Brazil, having missed the Blues Pre-Season to Asia. Antonio Conte has repeatedly stated that there is no way of looking back at Diego Costa despite the weakness in squad strength.
Conte started his title defense with a shambolic home loss against Burnley without Costa, and anyone viewing the match would say that lack of a true striker was evident. Although Alvaro Morata, who was brought on during the later stages of the match scored a goal and assisted Luiz with a brilliantly headed pass, replacing Costa will not be an easy job for the Spaniard.
Whatever the time brings for Diego Costa, he will always be remembered as a leader on the pitch, and a terrific goalscorer who won Chelsea two titles in three years.