Date published: Saturday 12th August 2017 8:05
Chelsea and Diego Costa’s dispute is no nearer to a resolution as the Blues begin their Premier League title defence in an apparent legal wrangle with the exiled striker.
Head coach Antonio Conte on Friday said there was “no news” on Costa and responded “I don’t know” when asked when the striker might return to London.
A Chelsea spokesman intervened, saying: “Nothing to report on that.”
Last week Chelsea dismissed as “nonsense” claims by a lawyer said to be representing Costa that Conte was forcing out last season’s top scorer.
But Press Association Sport understands a legal process is ongoing and there is no appetite to discuss the striker.
Conte has said it was decided in January, with Costa and his agent, Jorge Mendes, that the Brazil-born Spain international signed from Atletico Madrid in July 2014 would leave Stamford Bridge this summer.
So far this summer Costa, according to his Instagram posts, has been in Brazil. His rumoured preference of a return to Atletico is complicated by their transfer embargo, which expires in January 2018.
Chelsea open their Premier League title defence against Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday after a summer of speculation.
Conte’s future was also shrouded in doubt after rumoured friction over Chelsea’s transfer activity.
The Italian belatedly signed an improved two-year contract, but it was not an extension to his deal, which expires in 2019.
Conte said: “My state of mind is clear. At the moment I signed a new contract, and then I decided to stay, I decided to work for this club, and then to try to give every day 120 per cent.
“I’m doing my best every day.”
Chelsea have been active in the transfer market, signing striker Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid, plus defender Antonio Rudiger, goalkeeper Willy Caballero and Tiemoue Bakayoko, the midfielder bought from Monaco before Nemanja Matic was sold to rivals Manchester United.
Conte led the Blues from 10th the previous campaign to the Premier League trophy last season.
He suggested few fancied Chelsea’s title chances this time last year and not many would back the Blues now.
He added: “It was the same last season. Not one person believed Chelsea would win the title.
“This season, in this moment, I agree with these people who think this.”