Chelsea returned to training on Monday morning, and Diego Costa was not among Antonio Conte’s charges at Cobham.
The Spain international is home in Brazil, chilling, waiting, possibly praying that Atlético Madrid agree a fee with the Premier League champions this week.
It’s not very surprising, but in the largest deviation yet from the transfer saga that began last summer, Chelsea have given Costa “permission” (read: “told to not come anywhere near London”) to stay home as Atlético zero in on bringing back their former striker.
Reportedly, Atlético have not come close to meeting Chelsea’s €55m+ valuation of Costa, but this is obviously far from a stalemate. The Blues are becoming desperate to sell the 28-year-old, who has already agreed personal terms with his former club. His absence from training shows a sense of urgency and a willingness to negotiate from the London side. The longer the player remains under Conte’s employ, the more time Chelsea will have to secure his replacement - Torino’s Andrea Belotti and Real Madrid’s Álvaro Morata are two possibilities - thus, the lower his price tag will be. This is one instance where it may actually benefit Atlético to be under a registration ban, as it doesn’t matter when Costa arrives - just that he does (before January, of course).
Also, Chelsea leave for Singapore as part of a preseason tour next Monday, and if a deal is not agreed by then, Conte will face the potentially extremely awkward prospect of calling up Costa and taking him to the Far East. That puts even more pressure on the Blues to work out a deal with Atleti, which will make the coach on the other side quite happy.
This has dragged on long enough, I know. But it’s close, ladies and gentlemen - very close, indeed. Sorry, Beşiktaş fans.