Theoretically, one of the more serene factors of being under a transfer ban is that you are able to see right through crazy rumors surrounding your team. You get to sit back and enjoy (or grouse about) the fun other clubs and supporters are having. Clubs spend outrageous amounts of cash for perhaps marginal improvements, fresh hope emanates from fans and the vicious cycle recycles and repeats itself.
In reality, being under transfer ban sends one into transfer rumor hell and near-total delirium. Atlético Madrid are still being linked with crazy, complicated and undeniably sexy signings - such as the three-team deal reportedly under discussion that would end with Sevilla winger Vitolo donning red and white in January 2018.
But perhaps even more complex is Operation Diego Costa, which got a fresh kick to the pants on Wednesday.
Costa spoke to the media following Spain’s 2-2 draw with Colombia. The forward did not feature for Julen Lopetegui’s side during the friendly but had plenty to say afterward as he confirmed he would be leaving Chelsea this summer.
Diego Costa boom: "I'll leave Chelsea for sure. Conte sent me a message: he doesn't want me more. I don't know why". #CFC— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) June 7, 2017
Diego Costa confirms that Antonio Conte doesn't want him at Chelsea next season. Conte has sent him a message. #chelsea #cfc— Eduardo Fdez-Abascal (@efabascalUK) June 7, 2017
Antonio Conte put on a full-court press to keep the Brazilian-born Spaniard at Chelsea last summer, but the relationship between player and coach was rocky despite the Blues’ record-breaking season. It appears that relationship now has ceased just about entirely, as Conte apparently told Costa via text message he was no longer in his plans.
(That’s cold-blooded right there.)
The 28-year-old again admitted that Atlético are the only team he would play for but stressed that as 2018 is a World Cup year, sitting in the stands for five months would not be an option. This, of course, is problematic for Atleti, which cannot sign him up immediately because they broke FIFA rules. Repeatedly.
Regardless, Costa and his agent Jorge Mendes may already have an agreement that will see the player return to Madrid. If true, Costa’s path back into Diego Simeone’s loving embrace is (only slightly) less murky. Costa cannot be loaned out should he return to Atlético as the club will not have his federative rights, so he would either have to relent and sit for a few months or play somewhere else...like China, where Mendes does a lot of business and once did Atleti a solid by getting Jackson Martínez sent there.
AS suggest that Atlético and Mendes could convince Costa to sign in the Chinese Super League - where Tianjin Quanjian have registered a pretty public interest - and play there through November, when he would then return to Spain. Milan, too, are interested in the player; the Italian club were kind enough to get Fernando Torres warmed up for his own return to Atleti back in 2014.
No matter the method, the club must find a way to do this deal and other potential deals legally, lest UEFA and FIFA release the hounds. And there’s the small matter of agreeing a deal with Chelsea, which Atlético were unable to do last summer and may struggle to do again should the situation present itself. However, the possibility exists that Simeone may finally get his man back this winter.
Who said transfer bans aren’t fun?!