On Wednesday, Chelsea finally secured a replacement for the (surely?) outgoing Diego Costa. The Blues splurged and spent an initial €66 million to sign Real Madrid forward Álvaro Morata, who has finally secured regular first-team football ahead of next year’s World Cup - where he will compete with the man he’s set to replace in London.
The path should now be clear for Costa to return to Atlético Madrid, his controversy-tinged chapter at Chelsea now closed with Morata’s signing. Costa has agitated for a move away since last summer and tried to wreck his value this summer by reporting to the media that Antonio Conte wanted nothing more to do with him. Atlético want to sign him, but Atlético know that this summer a deal can be done on their terms rather than Chelsea’s.
However, according to a report in the Independent, Chelsea seem to think that they still have the upper hand in negotiations.
[Conte] has had a long-term interest in Morata, having previously signed the 24-year-old for Juventus in 2014, but the club had stalled in pursuit of the player as it was felt a deal for [Romelu] Lukaku could be easier. They will now likely have to pay Real Madrid’s asking price of £78m to get Morata, with the Spanish champions having previously been completely unmoving on price when in negotiations for the player with Manchester United, who then turned their attention to Lukaku.
That is one reason why Chelsea are holding out for £44m [€50m] for Costa, who is still seen as almost certain to return to Madrid. While Atletico had themselves hoped to get him for a cut-price £25m [€28m] due to Conte’s willingness to replace him, the English champions have so far refused to budge, while manager Diego Simeone has insisted they sign his former top scorer.
So that €20 million-plus gap in valuation that reportedly existed a month ago apparently still exists (oddly, though, the Telegraph has Chelsea wanting €45m). In a way, this isn’t too surprising and confirms a Marca report from Tuesday regarding Atlético’s approach to a Costa reunion.
Those in the Atleti offices know that Costa only wants to join them, so they are waiting for Conte's side to be willing to negotiate a fair deal that suits both sides - one where Atletico get Costa for below his market value and where Chelsea get an unhappy player out of the club, while ideally replacing him with a new striker.
There is also no rush for Atletico as they cannot register the player until January, anyway.
In addition, Atleti’s furious pursuit of Vitolo undoubtedly slowed any Costa deal. In reality, negotiations probably haven’t gotten very far despite Atleti’s obvious leverage and Chelsea’s now-fervent desire to rid themselves of one Spain international to make room for another.
Combine all that with president Enrique Cerezo’s comments on Tuesday, and you have a transfer that will probably still take a while yet to complete. We’ll see if Atlético learned their lesson from last summer and will wait a little longer for Costa this time.