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Everything anybody needs to know about Costa ^^

Ehm yes he can.

Using this to once again post the footballing brain that is His Highness Didi Hamann's pronouncements back in August : "Costa is overrated. He had a couple of good years for Atlético Madrid, but his

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1 hour ago, lucio said:

Get him 

No! He must stay further away from this club as possible. He's finished at the top level. We don't want another useless player in our squad, we have enough as it is!

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https://www.theguardian.com/football/2020/dec/29/diego-costa-cancels-atletico-madrid-contract-leaves-six-months-early?CMP=share_btn_tw

Costa left Atletico 6 months early and apparently due to personal reasons. Will have to pay €15m to Atletico if he joins a rival in La Liga or in the Champions League.

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On 23/12/2020 at 6:26 PM, Jason said:

No thanks. We turned a blind eye on Costa's c***ish-ness last time because he was producing it on the pitch. Otherwise, his attitude isn't worth persevering with and worth remembering Lampard also wants players with a good character in the squad and not one who could be troublemaker. Moreover, Costa has gone downhill and has had plenty of injuries ever since he went back to Atletico. 

I agree in a way but if there is one thing this squad lacks it is a more abrasive, nastier win at all costs attitude that Costa displayed in games for us here under Jose. Also the way he got in Seamus Coleman’s after he scored an OG in that 6-3 game to taunt him, I loved that. Just as Mourinho would also wind people up prior to a game. Also before we got him from Atletico he was one of the only CFs who would go toe to toe with Ramos in every game, who is a nasty cunt, with the same win at all costs mentality.

We talk about good character and troublemakers but was he really not a good character or a troublemaker? Ok on the pitch he would go at times but you could argue we have too many boys and not enough men, so to speak. Not expecting to see Mason, Tammy, Timo, Kai or that getting up in someones face about something or giving other boys in the team a kick up the arse. Or as if Frank is going to do anything more than sit with his arms folded. Think hes only ever overstepped (well maybe not overstepped but regretted it was heard on tv as he put it) once and was when he told Klopp or his staff to fuck off. We lack this sort of win at all costs mentality. 

If Diego could keep it to the point where it gives him that edge and that extra bit of performance, as we seen in that period he was here, he would be an incredible player. Obviously his age now he’s slowing down a lot so doubt we’d go for him but the troublemaker and good character thing, I don’t think he was any of that away from the pitch or in the dressing room. Ok he wanted to leave the previous season and didn’t return the following summer but Conte also pushed him to that with that daft text message. Worked out okay in the end of the fee we got etc but not as if Morata, Higuain, Giroud or Abraham fully improved or have done than him. 

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7 minutes ago, OneMoSalah said:

I agree in a way but if there is one thing this squad lacks it is a more abrasive, nastier win at all costs attitude that Costa displayed in games for us here under Jose. Also the way he got in Seamus Coleman’s after he scored an OG in that 6-3 game to taunt him, I loved that. Just as Mourinho would also wind people up prior to a game. Also before we got him from Atletico he was one of the only CFs who would go toe to toe with Ramos in every game, who is a nasty cunt, with the same win at all costs mentality.

We talk about good character and troublemakers but was he really not a good character or a troublemaker? Ok on the pitch he would go at times but you could argue we have too many boys and not enough men, so to speak. Not expecting to see Mason, Tammy, Timo, Kai or that getting up in someones face about something or giving other boys in the team a kick up the arse. Or as if Frank is going to do anything more than sit with his arms folded. Think hes only ever overstepped (well maybe not overstepped but regretted it was heard on tv as he put it) once and was when he told Klopp or his staff to fuck off. We lack this sort of win at all costs mentality. 

If Diego could keep it to the point where it gives him that edge and that extra bit of performance, as we seen in that period he was here, he would be an incredible player. Obviously his age now he’s slowing down a lot so doubt we’d go for him but the troublemaker and good character thing, I don’t think he was any of that away from the pitch or in the dressing room. Ok he wanted to leave the previous season and didn’t return the following summer but Conte also pushed him to that with that daft text message. Worked out okay in the end of the fee we got etc but not as if Morata, Higuain, Giroud or Abraham fully improved or have done than him. 

He's getting old. He has had tons of injuries in the last 3 years. He's been outscored by Alonso in terms of league goals since 2017/18. No thanks. We won't be signing him anyway.

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2 hours ago, Jason said:

He's getting old. He has had tons of injuries in the last 3 years. He's been outscored by Alonso in terms of league goals since 2017/18. No thanks. We won't be signing him anyway.

I didnt mention signing him. I specifically said I doubt we would sign him. Just his ruthless mentality is something this squad misses. Maybe he will get that China move now... money wont be the same though. 

1 hour ago, Tomo said:

Are people not taking notes with what's happening with Bale at Tottenham?

Let him go to Arsenal.

Then theres Cavani at United who has 5 PL goal involvements in 9 PL matches. I think Costa is done more or less at top top clubs but its not always a cert although I do think he wont get another club like us or Atletico. Thiago Silva is another case here looks very well and playing at a very consistent standard for his age. 

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13 minutes ago, OneMoSalah said:

I didnt mention signing him. I specifically said I doubt we would sign him. Just his ruthless mentality is something this squad misses. Maybe he will get that China move now... money wont be the same though. 

Then theres Cavani at United who has 5 PL goal involvements in 9 PL matches. I think Costa is done more or less at top top clubs but its not always a cert although I do think he wont get another club like us or Atletico. Thiago Silva is another case here looks very well and playing at a very consistent standard for his age. 

Thiago had a great season last season which included keeping probably the best player in Europe of last season quiet in the biggest game of all. Cavani had a quiet season last season due to injuries but was top class as recently as the season before last.

Diego hasn't been on anything that could be passed off as form for coming on four years, to suddenly return to his prime self after four years playing like shit at the age of 32 would be unprecedented.

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The two sides of Diego Costa at Chelsea

https://theathletic.com/2447547/2021/03/16/the-two-sides-of-diego-costa-at-Chelsea/

Perhaps the biggest shame of Diego Costa cancelling his Atletico Madrid contract in December, a little more than a fortnight after Diego Simeone’s team were drawn to face Chelsea in the Champions League round of 16, is that it scuppered any chance of a sequel to a moment from his three-year stint at Stamford Bridge that was unforgettable for those present.

It began with Costa, in the midst of his Premier League pomp, mingling in a corporate area of the stadium after a match with a full pint of beer in each hand. Members of his entourage were growing restless, with one companion in particular understandably not convinced by the striker’s assurances, in increasingly animated Spanish, that he would be ready to leave shortly. Once he realised his words were not going to be enough, Chelsea’s talisman decided there was only one remaining course of action. He shot a final glance at his audience, threw his head back and drained one glass, then the other and made his exit.

There could be no more perfect anecdote to sum up Costa, a man who has never knowingly taken a half measure in his remarkable career. Where that career goes next is an open question; at 32 he has now been a free agent for more than three months, albeit one that still commands considerable interest across Europe and in his native Brazil. What is clear is that Atletico’s trip to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea will be more than the second leg of a tense Champions League last-16 tie. It will be a meeting of two clubs who built their most successful identities of the past decade around the same warrior striker, and who have both struggled to return to such illustrious heights since being deprived of his prime gifts.

Costa’s three seasons at Chelsea were more eventful than most footballers’ entire careers. He spearheaded two dominant Premier League title-winning sides, before clashing spectacularly with the two coaches who had done so much to bring the best out of him. His bustling, provocative style won the unconditional love of Chelsea fans while aggravating almost everyone else, not least a Football Association who came to regard him as a persistent nuisance. Many in the British football media embraced him as their favourite villain, even if his virtuosity was often every bit as undeniable as his volatility.

The noise, good and bad, was unrelenting and by the time it was over-eaching a fittingly dramatic conclusion with a prolonged, acrimonious public standoff that spanned two continents — any regret felt at Stamford Bridge and Cobham was tinged with relief. No Chelsea player since has come close to matching the constant stream of controversy, or the contributions on the pitch.

This is the story of Diego Costa at Chelsea: the magic, the madness and the man behind it all.

Costa and Luis Suarez could have been team-mates long before Atletico. Liverpool were the first Premier League club to try to bring him to England in the summer of 2013, activating the €25 million buyout clause in his contract. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was already a keen admirer, but recognised it would take time to convince owner Roman Abramovich to spend on a replacement for a diminished Fernando Torres. Instead, Mourinho adopted a defensive strategy, assuring Atletico and Costa that Chelsea would sign him the following year for a higher fee if he turned down Liverpool and spent one more season in Spain.

Mourinho’s pitch was successful, and Costa’s reward was a new contract that raised his buyout clause to £32 million. His career-best scoring season — 36 goals in 51 appearances across all competitions — also fired Atletico to a historic La Liga triumph and a Champions League final appearance. A move to west London was considered a fait accompli by the time his goal helped knock Chelsea out at the semi-final stage, the Stamford Bridge crowd serenading him with chants of “Diego Costa, we’ll see you next year”.

When he finally arrived at Cobham in the summer of 2014, he wasted no time in delivering his mission statement. As detailed in Fran Guillen’s book Diego Costa: The Art of War, he gathered John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic before his first training session to say two short sentences to them in halting English that Oscar had helped him learn: “I go to war. You come with me.” They laughed, but they also took their new striker at his word.

Costa’s presence in training was immediately felt. Whenever he was doing finishing drills, his shots were struck with such ferocity that those in the vicinity of the goal quickly learned they needed to pay attention, because any that veered off target were liable to cause serious pain. The intensity with which he threw himself into practice matches was startling; walking off the training pitch after one session in pre-season ahead of the 2014-15 season, Mourinho could be heard muttering excitedly: “He’s a monster.”

Opposing defenders across the Premier League swiftly reached a similar conclusion. He scored seven goals in his first four matches in the competition, starting with the openers in victories over Burnley and Leicester City. Then, according to one team-mate at the time, he promised he would score twice against Everton. He did, starting and finishing a cascade of goals in Chelsea’s madcap 6-3 win. A fortnight later he pledged to score a hat-trick at home to Swansea City, and kept his word again in a 4-2 win.

“He hasn’t surprised me,” Mourinho insisted. “Maybe seven in four has surprised me — that’s not normal — but he’s comfortable in the team. We were building the side in a way where we were waiting for a certain type of striker. I think everyone knows now why Chelsea did well to wait for Diego rather than buying someone else in the mid-winter last season.”

The only things that limited Costa for much of his first season at Chelsea had nothing to do with form. Mourinho admitted as early as September 2014 that it was a risk to ask his striker to play three matches in a week, due to the lingering effects of the hamstring injury that forced him off after nine minutes of the 2014 Champions League final and hampered his performances for Spain in the World Cup that summer. There were also disciplinary issues.

Costa arrived in England with a reputation as both an aggressor and a provocateur, and quickly lived up to it. The on-pitch flashpoints were just as memorable as the goals: taunting Seamus Coleman after the Everton defender scored an own goal and prompting a furious reaction from Tim Howard; angrily confronting Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta in the moments before the Argentine was sent off for persistent fouling; tussling with Martin Skrtel and treading on Emre Can’s leg as Chelsea edged Liverpool out of a tight two-legged League Cup semi-final tie at Stamford Bridge.

The latter incident earned Costa his first retrospective three-match ban from the FA. He contested it only to be able to place on record his insistence that he did not deliberately stamp on Can. The incident, along with several other Costa fouls, had been shown on Sky Sports with the caption ‘COSTA CRIMES’ — a framing that infuriated Mourinho, who supported his striker’s assertion that it was accidental. “There is a campaign on the television with a certain pundit that is saying Diego Costa ‘crimes’,” he said after the Liverpool game. “This guy must be nuts. Great campaign. We know how much that pundit loves Chelsea and particularly loves me.”

Injuries and suspension limited Costa to just 26 Premier League appearances in 2014-15, though he still managed to become the first Chelsea player since Didier Drogba to hit 20 goals in the competition in a single campaign as Mourinho masterminded his third title triumph. Costa’s tally of 21 in 37 appearances across all competitions was more modest; he failed to find the net in the Champions League that season as Chelsea were eliminated by Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16, or score in the League Cup until the final, when his shot from a tight angle deflected in off Kyle Walker to seal Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Tottenham at Wembley.

By the end of the 2014-15 season English football had identified its new bogeyman, Chelsea had found their new talisman and Costa had added two more major trophy wins to his growing medal collection.

It became a common sight during Chelsea’s away matches from 2014 to 2017: Costa standing, head held high and chest puffed out, revelling in the success of his latest provocation as he soaked in the vitriol pouring down from the incensed opposition fans abusing him on all sides. He embraced his combative role and threw himself into it with total commitment, partly because it came naturally to him to do so and partly because it was a role he had been instructed to play.

Mourinho made it his mission to bring out the devil in Costa. He would deliberately fire up his striker before matches, encouraging him to indulge his worst impulses on the pitch. “It was Mourinho telling him to play that way,” one Chelsea insider tells The Athletic. “The message was ‘Go out there, be the animal, kick people’. Jose insisted he be the disruptor. Diego would sometimes be upset that he would carry out the coach’s instructions, get a yellow card and the club did not defend him. He’d say things like, ‘I’m getting killed by the media and pundits but this is what the club want me to do, how they want me to play.’”

Costa’s annoyance at what he perceived to be a lack of protection from media criticism was the primary motivator of Mourinho’s decision to call out Sky Sports for their coverage of the Can incident, as well as his unscheduled appearance on Goals On Sunday in February 2015 to accuse the broadcaster of lacking impartiality in their assessment of his striker. But he stopped short of confirming that Costa was acting under his explicit instruction, the one thing that could have taken some of the heat off him.

No one knew Costa’s true nature at the time better than his team-mates. “Diego was a crazy guy, but also a lovely, lovely guy,” former Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi tells The Athletic. “You watched him on the Saturday and then during the week at the training ground you were thinking, ‘is this the same guy?!’

“On the Saturday he is kicking, bullying, shouting at people, hitting and fighting. He gave us that special thing. Opponents were scared of him. He was motivated. He wanted that fight with the defenders, he wanted that argument. He wanted to irritate them. That’s what motivated him, to have that fight. If he didn’t get that, he was not himself. He wants to get that confrontation. That’s how he plays.

“And then you see him at the training ground and he is a gentle soul. The nicest guy you could ever meet. He was funny, he walked around making jokes. He kept the place alive. He is incredible. Such a lovely human being.”

Away from matches he was relentlessly good-natured and playful. Barely a day went by at Cobham without a Costa-led prank, invariably motivated by a desire to make those around him laugh rather than torment them. His favourite stunt was to steal the keys to the physio’s medical buggy before training and drive it into a ditch or the far corner of the training ground, then jog back. On another occasion he found a large cardboard box in the boot room, brought it outside and worked in tandem with Matic to try to trap team-mates inside it.

During one pre-season barbecue, Costa joined in a 5-a-side game with the children of Chelsea staff. When one of the boys fouled him he fell to the ground, yelling and rolling around theatrically, then spent the rest of the game teasing the boy each time he scored. Whenever a player presence was required at a supporter or charity day he, along with David Luiz, rose to the top of the wish list because of the genuine warmth and enthusiasm he showed, particularly when engaging with young people.

This side of Costa’s character never softened the public perception of one of the most widely reviled footballers in England, in large part because he was rarely able to communicate it. Having a Spanish passport meant he was not subject to the same Home Office requirements for learning English as other non-European members of Chelsea’s squad, and the large size of the club’s Brazilian and Spanish contingent when he joined removed much of the incentive to improve his language skills.

Throughout his three years in London, Costa’s grasp of English never progressed much beyond swear words and “geezer” — also a favourite of Luiz — or simply repeating a word that was said to him. Any interviews he did with British journalists were conducted via interpreters, and such interactions also became fewer and further between the more convinced he became that he was the victim of a media agenda in England.

“I’m convinced that if he’d have spoken English fluently, he would have been seen very differently in England,” says ESPN Brasil reporter Joao Castelo-Branco, the journalist who spoke to Costa more often than any other during his time at Chelsea.

“I’m not saying he wouldn’t still have been considered a villain, because what you do on the pitch counts a lot and he was confrontational and a bit dirty in Spain. But if you hear him talking, he was very endearing. He would explain stuff and put his side across, and some people would have warmed to him if he could have communicated what he was thinking. Instead he was an easy target, because the press would write about him and he wouldn’t answer back.

“When you spoke to him after the match, he was nicest guy you could wish to meet. It was a real different personality. He would stop and talk and say what was on his mind. He wouldn’t hold back and he knew that. He wasn’t always up for talking and sometimes he would say, ‘I’m not going to talk today because I know I’ll say something stupid.’ I had a relationship with him where sometimes I’d look at him and know I’d have to save him for another day.

“He’d come out of the dressing room and even though he couldn’t speak English, you’d see him saying hello to everyone — the security staff, the people cleaning the stadium. He’d acknowledge them and was really friendly. He liked to play around but he was also very down to earth, human and humble. He’d connect with people at all levels of the club. He had this ability to smile and build a connection with people even without speaking English.”

Costa’s more combative side wasn’t solely reserved for opponents. A willingness to challenge authority manifested itself early in his career in Spain — during a loan spell at Albacete in 2008, he threatened to go on strike unless the club’s non-playing staff were paid their wages — and it eventually brought him into public conflict with both of the coaches who framed his three years at Chelsea.

Mourinho’s relationships with many Chelsea players became strained in those disastrous first five months of the 2015-16 season, when a Premier League title defence quickly disintegrated into something more akin to a relegation battle amid shambolic performances, wild accusations of refereeing conspiracies and what technical director Michael Emenalo would later describe as “palpable discord” between the squad and the manager.

But some internal tensions manifested more publicly than others. Costa, who subsequently admitted that he had turned up for pre-season overweight and out of shape, scored just four goals in his first 16 appearances across all competitions. His most memorable contribution during that stretch was provoking Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista into kicking out at him during Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, having shoved his hand into the face of Laurent Koscielny three times without sanction from referee Mike Dean. Mourinho insisted he was the man of the match, but his antics earned another three-game ban from the FA.

The first public fault lines between Mourinho and Costa appeared Chelsea’s travelled to Israel to take on Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champions League in November. There the striker was restrained by John Terry during an angry exchange with Mourinho as the teams walked off the pitch at half-time.

After the match Mourinho insisted they had settled their differences with “a few kisses and a few cuddles”, but Costa was observed storming straight onto the team bus shortly after the final whistle. Five days later the striker remained an unused substitute during a goalless draw with Tottenham at White Hart Lane, throwing his bib in the direction of his manager when it became clear he would not be called upon to come on.

Mourinho’s sacking the following month sparked an outpouring of fury from Chelsea supporters, who jeered and heckled the team mercilessly during a 3-1 home win over Sunderland in front of owner Roman Abramovich, watching the game from his box alongside Drogba and returning caretaker Guus Hiddink. Costa, labelled by some as one of the “three rats” who had undermined Mourinho together with Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas, was substituted in the 76th minute and glared up at the Stamford Bridge stands as he left the field to a chorus of boos.

For the second time in the Abramovich era, Hiddink brought the calm after the storm, leading Chelsea to the safety and obscurity of mid-table. He also revived Costa, who scored six goals in his first seven appearances after the managerial change. By the time another Champions League knockout battle with PSG rolled around he was once again his team’s main hope, though his goal against the French champions at Stamford Bridge was not enough to prevent a convincing two-legged defeat.

Three days later he picked up the only red card of his career in England as Everton knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup at Goodison Park: reacting angrily to a foul by Gareth Barry, he thrust his head towards the midfielder before gripping him in his arms and mimicking a bite to his neck. It was regarded as a classic “Costa crime” but in truth it was more of an exception than the rule to his performances under Hiddink, who implored him to control his aggression on the pitch.

Those final months of toxic theatre with Mourinho cemented a lasting image of Costa in English football, but they proved only the prologue for what transpired over the course of one rollercoaster season between Chelsea’s combustible striker and Antonio Conte.

The two men got off to a bad start. Chelsea had barely begun pre-season training in the summer of 2016 when Costa made it known that he wanted to leave the club. Atletico had signalled their interest in bringing him back to Spain, though no formal offer had been received. Conte banished him from training as a result and Chelsea threatened to report Atletico to FIFA for making an illegal approach to the striker they still considered fundamental to their plans.

An uneasy peace was brokered once Atletico signed another striker, Kevin Gameiro, from Sevilla and informed Costa they no longer had the money to make the deal happen. None of this chaos behind the scenes bled onto the pitch, where Costa began the new Premier League season a man on fire. He scored 14 goals in his first 18 appearances from August until the turn of the year, his form propelling Chelsea clear at the top of the table following Conte’s inspired decision to switch to a 3-4-3 formation.

Along the way he toned down the provocation and rekindled his preternatural understanding with Fabregas. The relationship between the pair was likened by former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin to that of “a quarterback playing with a wide receiver”, and their most memorable combination created the equaliser in a decisive 3-1 comeback win over City at the Etihad Stadium.

“I have a fantastic connection with him, not just only on the pitch but also off the pitch,” Fabregas later told the club’s official website. “You have to adapt your game depending on the striker you play with because some of them are quicker, some of them like you to play the ball more to their feet, some of them like short runs when you are in the final third. Someone like Diego Costa likes long runs and we can see in the last two and a half seasons that sometimes they are balls from around my own half, you know a very long ball, and he’s really quick and sharp and strong, so you have to really adapt.”

Costa was playing like the best footballer in England, which made what happened next even more unexpected and incomprehensible. Having missed training with a back problem, he was dropped for a 3-0 away win over Leicester City in the middle of January after a training-ground row with Conte and fitness coach Julio Tous in which a huge offer from Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian was mentioned. He returned to the team eight days later, scoring in a 2-0 home win over Hull City, but the damage done by the episode was irreparable.

Sources have told The Athletic that all parties agreed in January 2017 that Costa would be allowed to leave the following summer providing an acceptable deal could be made. In return he would stay for the rest of the season and help the team secure the Premier League title. Atletico, rather than China, remained his desire and the situation was simplified by a change to Chinese Super League transfer rules that limited the number of foreign players Tianjin Quanjian could field in their match-day squad, ending their interest.

Costa held up his end of the bargain. There was even a final flash of the old prankster when Chelsea officially sealed the title with a 1-0 win over West Brom at The Hawthorns; having burst into the press room and pulled Conte out of his post-match press conference along with Luiz, he pointed a fire extinguisher at Sunday newspaper journalists huddled around the Chelsea head coach in a bid to speed up their exit from the stadium to the team bus, where more beers were waiting.

On the pitch he provided less of a spectacle, scoring only six of his 20 Premier League goals after the row and rarely looking like the force of nature who dominated the first half of the campaign. His best performance of those final months might have been his final appearance for Chelsea, scoring in a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in the 2017 FA Cup final.

After that, things got messy. Atletico could not register him immediately due to a FIFA-imposed transfer ban and their opening offer did not come close to matching Chelsea’s valuation, but Costa felt the club had reneged on their promise to sell him. He requested a few more days off before returning from Brazil for the start of pre-season, and then received a WhatsApp message from Conte that has gone down in infamy: “Hi Diego, I hope you are well. Thanks for the seasono [sic] we spent together. Good luck for the next year but you are not in my plan.”

Conte’s message didn’t tell Costa anything he didn’t already know. It did, however, provide useful leverage in the lengthy PR war that ensued, as well as undermining Chelsea’s negotiating position with Atletico. He remained in Lagarto, incurring fines from the club for his unauthorised absence. He trained, did some work for his Bola de Ouro non-profit football academy and recorded himself on Instagram participating in a street party wearing an Atletico shirt.

Then he gave a sensational interview to the Daily Mail, on the same day that Chelsea kicked off their Premier League title defence with a shock 3-2 defeat at home to Burnley. Speaking from his family home, he claimed the club were treating him like a “criminal”. Much of what he said was deliberate provocation, most notably the mischievous claim that Conte was lacking in “charisma” and the pointed revelation that many of his team-mates and Mourinho had been in touch to wish him well during his self-imposed exile.

Marina Granovskaia, who had also been in regular text contact with Costa as the striker pleaded with her to sanction his return to Madrid, was unmoved. The deal was not agreed until the final week of September 2017 and when it was, it was on terms acceptable to Chelsea: £58 million, the exact price splashed out on replacement Alvaro Morata and a handsome profit on the £32 million paid to acquire Costa from Atletico three years earlier.

Costa travelled to the Spanish capital to watch Chelsea take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League group stage a few days later. In the bowels of the Wanda Metropolitano there were warm embraces and words exchanged with team-mates and staff from his old club, though no one saw Conte acknowledge the player who had so publicly goaded him. The game itself was settled 2-1 in Chelsea’s favour by goals from Morata and Michy Batshuayi, the two strikers tasked with filling the huge void Costa had left.

Despite claiming that he was close to doing so before Conte intervened, Costa never signed an extension to the five-year Chelsea contract he signed on arrival from Atletico in the summer of 2014. Nor did he ever show any great interest in doing so.

Suggestions that he would like to return to Spain surfaced as early as the end of the 2014-15 season, and prompted Chelsea to run an interview on their in-house TV channel during the club’s post-season trip to Sydney in which Costa provided reassurance that he was going nowhere. “I have no reason to leave this place,” he insisted. “I love it, the fans love me and I want to stay.”

His three years at Stamford Bridge were plagued by reports that he was unsettled in England or homesick, even if it wasn’t the daily reality of his demeanour at Cobham. “All the talk about that, I think that was the perception he wanted people on the outside to see,” adds Mikel, who left Chelsea before the China row in January 2017. “I think he was faking it. He was definitely enjoying his time. Every day he walked in the dressing room, he was happy and great with everybody.

“All I saw was someone who was happy. I never saw someone who didn’t want to be at the club. When we won or lost, he reacted like a Chelsea player should. He was a happy bunny.”

Costa was certainly happy playing football, but off the pitch the language barrier limited his social circle to his wife and daughter, his Portuguese and Spanish-speaking team-mates and his entourage. The latter was considerably smaller than during his time in Madrid; even his brother Jair did not relocate to England full-time during his Chelsea stint.

“He never really settled in England,” says Castelo-Branco, the ESPN Brasil reporter. “I went to his house once. It was one of those big houses in Cobham, in the middle of nowhere. This is the case with a lot of footballers who come from abroad, but the house just felt a little bit soulless.

“Spain is a very Latin country with a lot of similarities to Brazil, so he was totally at home there. You can go to similar houses of players in Madrid, but they’ve got sunshine all year round, big swimming pools and barbecues with their mates. It’s very different to British winter, with dark and cold nights.”

One of the few places Costa felt truly at home was Café Brazil, the family-run restaurant opposite Stamford Bridge on Fulham Road frequented by many of the Brazilian contingent at Chelsea. “Before the matches, he used to stop at the cafe and go straight to the kitchen in the basement,” owner Joana Magali Lorente tells The Athletic. “He’d run in and say to my mum, ‘Please can you prepare my meal because I need to go with the team!’ Conte was the coach at the time and he was very strict. My mother stopped what she was doing and prepared the meal or him.

“He used to like the picanha (Brazilian steak), and Eduardo (his assistant) would get pastels (Portuguese pastries) to take away for him. He’d stay in the cafe talking, making jokes. He was a very nice guy. Before going to the kitchen he used to shake hands with all the customers, even ones who didn’t know him. It was so funny. He was a very open guy.”

On one occasion Costa came back to the cafe a few hours after playing in a Chelsea home match. “We have lots of customers on match days, and you can imagine what it was like when he came in,” she adds. “We couldn’t move! I had to ask more staff to stay to keep the door secure — lots of supporters were waiting outside for him. I stopped serving because he was inside, and said, ‘OK, I can do photos (with Costa) but you have to buy a drink!’”

Over time Costa’s social circle of Brazilians at Chelsea dwindled; within the space of 18 months the club sold Filipe Luis back to Atletico and Ramires and Oscar to Chinese Super League clubs. Luiz returned in the summer of 2016 and Kenedy, his closest friend at the club, was never further away than Watford on loan, but off the field his life still paled in comparison to what it had been in Madrid. His eyes were wandering back to Spain before Conte took the Chelsea job, and the clash between them simply cemented what he had long desired.

Costa was the only Chelsea striker to come close to matching the achievements or iconic status of Drogba. His record of 70 direct goal involvements (52 goals and 18 assists) in 89 Premier League appearances is all the more remarkable considering that, owing to injuries, suspension or internal disciplinary issues, he never managed to put a great full season together. Morata, deemed an attractive replacement in the summer of 2017 in part because of his lower-maintenance personality, ultimately failed to measure up in terms of character and temperament in spite of his formidable talent.

That particular burden currently falls upon Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud, but none have yet proven consistently equal to such a lofty standard. Neither, it must be said, has Costa; 19 goals in 81 appearances across all competitions in the three and a half years since his return to Atletico, along with a litany of injuries, suggests he should probably go down as one of Chelsea’s best sales as well as one of their best signings.

But it’s a mark of the man that in the most trying moments since his departure, some high up at Chelsea have often uttered sentences that include the words “Diego” and “if only”. They are still looking for a striker with his rare blend of personality and ability, and they may well be looking for some time to come.

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You know what Erik Lamela did in the NLD a couple of days ago? From hero to a below zero.

That will be Costa now if we sign him. Stay away. He's going to get lots of red cards with VAR.

Edited by Mana
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