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English Premier League

‘Go to China!’ – Chelsea axe Diego Costa after he is latest linked with big-money move

Reports in England say manager Antonio Conte fears star striker’s head may have been turned by massive salary on offer

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 10:54am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 11:54am

Diego Costa’s future at Premier League leaders Chelsea was plunged into doubt after their leading scorer was dropped for Saturday’s away match with champions Leicester.

The 28-year-old Spanish international, who has scored 14 goals in 19 games this season, is believed to have had a bust-up at the club over the level of his fitness and has not trained all week.

The bombshell news came after the Brazil-born, naturalised Spaniard was reportedly linked with a lucrative salary offer from a Chinese club worth a mind-boggling 34 million (HK$280 million) a year.

According to reports in the British press, Costa has been dropped after a training-ground bust-up with manager Antonio Conte and a fitness coach over the extent of an injury he was complaining of.

The Telegraph said Costa has not trained for the last three days after a heated row over an injury that led to Conte shouting, ‘Go to China!’.

The reported salary on offer to Costa from China would see him just behind Shanghai Shenhua’s Carlos Tevez as the highest-paid player in the world.

Two Chelsea players, Oscar and Jon Obi Mikel, recently left Chelsea to join Chinese Super League clubs on huge deals.

Only last month Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had been singing the player’s praises saying he was a reformed character from the one who had sulked his way through the previous unhappy campaign.

“I’m happy for him because he is showing great passion. In every game he is showing great commitment and work rate to help the team,” Conte said.

“It’s fantastic and it’s important to continue this way. Diego for sure is a great striker.

“He is enjoying playing his football. Now he is showing his passion in the right way.”

Costa signed a five-year deal on his arrival in July 2014 for £32 million from Atletico Madrid which leaves two-and-a-half years to run on his contract and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is believed to be unwilling to sell him.

After the stories broke in England, Costa posted a picture on his Instagram with the caption ‘Come on Chelsea’, which fans were clinging to for reassurance.

Come on Chelsea!!!

A photo posted by Diego Costa (@diego.costa) on Jan 13, 2017 at 2:30pm PST

The striker had wanted to leave at the end of last season – although he insisted it wasn’t because of Chelsea but for family reasons – and was linked with a return to Atletico before changing his mind.

“Did I want to go? Yes, yes, I was about to leave,” he said earlier this month.

“But not because of Chelsea.

“There was one thing I wanted to change for family reasons but it wasn’t to be, and I continue to be happy here.”

His goals have been instrumental in Chelsea going on a 13 match winning run in the Premier League which was brought to an end by a 2-0 defeat at the hands of fellow London side Tottenham Hotspur just over a week ago.

In his absence on Saturday, Belgian star Eden Hazard could replace him up front as he did against Bournemouth when the Spaniard was suspended.

However, regardless of Abramovich’s determination not to offload him, one English bookmaker cut the price of his leaving in the January transfer window to 2/1.