COMMENT: You’ll get your move Diego. To Atletico Madrid? Absolutely. But you’re going to pay for it. Oh man, are you going to pay for it…
Chelsea have their centre-forward right where they want him. Well, legally anyway. In a perfect world, they’d be shot of him. Diego Costa would now be an Atletico Madrid player. They’d have an extra £50m in the bank account. And the Spain international would be Atleti’s dilemma.
But as it stands, Chelsea management still feel pretty good about themselves. All those threats of legal action coming from the Costa camp are now being laughed off. Tacking his name onto their Premier League squad list made sure of that. His whole case hinged on claims being prevented from playing. Well, that’s gone. But with Costa still AWOL. Still in Brazil. Legarto to be precise. Chelsea have no reason to pay him. Indeed, his minders are now acknowledging that he’s in breach of his contract. It is Costa who faces a massive bill should Chelsea choose to take things to court.
For now, there’s no real appetite for that. A bit of bluster through the press, sure. Just to keep Diego on the backfoot. But there is hope – and belief – matters can be settled in-house.
“They want me to be there training with the reserves,” bellowed Costa last month. “I wouldn’t be allowed access to the first-team dressing room and I would have no contact at all with the guys. I’m not a criminal!”
They’re calling it ‘reconciliation’. But there’s no great desire for forgiveness on Chelsea‘s part. His decision to expand his tirade beyond the personal attacks on Conte to demands he only be sold to Atleti ended any wish on the club’s part to mend bridges.
And again, it just fell into place for Conte and his staff. Costa can’t complain. He can’t wail about being dumped to the U23s. If it was good enough for Eden Hazard last week against Everton, then Costa – and his lawyers – have no reason to moan.
For Conte, he’ll simply watch on from afar. Diego won’t be his problem. Step forward Joe Edwards…
He’s barely a year older than Diego. And only months into his new job. But Chelsea‘s U23 coach has to be pinching himself. Last week he had Hazard on his teamsheet. In a week, maybe only days, he’s going to be working with Costa. Not just on game day, but week-in, week-out. The strops. The tantrums. They’re all his for the next four months. Welcome to the big leagues, Joe!
Which offers a new twist in the whole development saga at Cobham.
What is more valuable for Chelsea? Having a senior player, with no hope or wish to turn out for the first team, running around for the U23s? Or giving that place to a Hudson-Odoi to continue his development?
A one-off game or two is understandable. But is Hudson-Odoi really best served stuck on the bench while Diego runs around against the kids just to get fit for another club?
Hudson-Odoi is no mug. An England U17 international. A player who had Juventus and Benfica tabling him offers before penning a three-year deal with Chelsea in July. Is taking a backseat for the next four months for Diego in his – and Chelsea‘s – best interests?
There’s a good moral case to argue that it is Diego, so publicly desperate to get away, who should be stepping aside.
Of course, that won’t happen. But there’s a good argument to be made. As there is regarding player power.
For all the taunts, insults and Instagram posts, Chelsea are in control. Everything Diego and his camp tried these past three months only damaged him.
He will return. He will apologise. And he will train with the U23s. This player power thing isn’t always one way.