Date published: Tuesday 19th July 2016 2:07
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has emphatically ruled out the sale of striker Diego Costa.
Speaking on Tuesday the Italian made it clear that he wants the Spain striker to stay at Stamford Bridge and labelled him a “player with fundamental importance”.
“Diego is our player. He’s a fantastic player for me. He is a player with fundamental importance,” said Conte.
“For me it’s no problem to read there is opportunity to go to another team because Diego will stay with us. He is very happy and working very hard.
“We are Chelsea – one of the biggest clubs in the world for this reason I think Diego Costa must stay in the best team.”
Costa ‘rocked’ Chelsea by ‘demanding’ a return to Atletico Madrid, according to an exclusive in the Daily Star earlier this month.
Costa, whose contract expires in 2019, reportedly told the club he wanted to go with Atletico keen to be reunited with their former frontman. It is understood Atletico were prepared to pay £40million for the 27-year-old, who started Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Rapid Vienna.
Atletico have £32million to spend from the sale of Jackson Martinez and it was believed that Chelsea would be open to offers for Costa, who managed 16 goals from 41 games last season.
Atletico president Enrique Cerezo played down reports he had held talks with Costa, who left Spain fro the Premier League for £32million.
“We like him a lot, I’ll admit,” Cerezo was quoted as saying. “We are talking to the player and working on him returning to Madrid. It’s close, but I can’t say anymore.”
But he has since told Spanish newspaper AS: “I do not speak of players at other clubs.”
Costa, who joined the Blues from Atletico Madrid in 2014, was a target for the Chinese Super League earlier this year with reports claiming the striker was a £72million target with several Asian clubs looking to double his £4million-a-year after tax salary to lure him to the Far East.