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Diego Costa would leave Chelsea only for Atlético return

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Last summer’s hottest transfer saga could be back for a return engagement.

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Arsenal v Chelsea - The Emirates FA Cup Final Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Chelsea were denied what would have been a famous double on Saturday, as Arsenal defeated the Premier League Champions 2-1 in the FA Cup final. The Blues’ lone goal in the final, which made things interesting for a few minutes before Aaron Ramsey’s winner, came through the one and only Diego Costa. The Spanish international, however, would pique interest in a different manner once the game ended.

Costa was asked about his future by Luis Restrepo of DIRECTV Sports, and Atlético Madrid supporters were soon wagging their tongues at the 28-year-old’s answer.

AS captured a video clip of the media session, in which Costa also denies any interest in moving to the Chinese Super League. He was subject to overtures from Tianjin Quanjian and reportedly tempted by the sky-high wages on offer, but the league’s recent imposition of a 100% tax on foreign players could curtail the recent influx of high-profile arrivals from Europe - and again, Costa has no desire to play in China anyway.

No, he insisted he would only go to Atlético if he were to end his successful stay in London. And that’s a big if, as his representatives reportedly have kicked off renewal talks with Chelsea.

Costa has hit 20 league goals twice in the past three seasons - both seasons, Chelsea won the Premier League going away. He’s a very popular figure at Stamford Bridge despite his springtime lulls, past fitness concerns and reported mood swings. He’s also one of the few forwards who has a track record of success in Diego Simeone’s system, which is why Atlético tried to take advantage of Chelsea’s miserable 2015-16 season and launched a very public bid to re-sign him last summer. When Costa declined to hand in a transfer request and Chelsea refused to sell, Atleti moved on to Kévin Gameiro, who drew ire for his inconsistent performances during his debut season in Madrid.

Right now, it seems Costa is content at Chelsea. He has a return to the Champions League to look forward to next season, as well as a possible contract extension. But things could change in a hurry if the following dominoes fall:

a) Atlético’s transfer ban is lifted.

b) Chelsea acquire Everton forward Romelu Lukaku.

c) Atlético sell Antoine Griezmann to Manchester United.

Lukaku has been linked with a return to Chelsea, and the Evening Standard says that is in part due to his having Paul Pogba-esque “unfinished business” there. The big Belgian would almost certainly displace Costa in Antonio Conte’s plans, and Chelsea would then have the incentive it did not have last summer to find Costa a new home. Atlético would have an opening - and cash to splash - if Griezmann ends his own transfer saga by deciding to join Pogba at United. Of course, there’s that pesky transfer ban to worry about, and if the Court of Arbitration for Sport does not see fit to lift it, a potential Costa swoop goes up in smoke.

There are sure to be more developments over the coming days and weeks, so we’ll see what happens.