Antonio Conte is enduring a torrid start to the Premier League season as the Diego Costa saga rumbles on in the background.
Chelsea were stunned by a 3-2 defeat to Burnley at home on the opening day of the campaign, a result that exposed just how thin the Blues’ squad is looking.
Youngsters Jeremie Boga and Charly Musonda both featured and things will not get any easier next week, when the suspended Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas will miss the trip to Wembley to face Tottenham.
The pressure is already on Conte. Costa’s continued exile is not helping matters, particularly as he has taken aim at his manager in an interview with the Daily Mail.
“He has done a good job and I can see that, but as a person, no. He is not a coach who is very close with his players. He is very distant. He doesn’t possess charisma.”
The Spain international is currently in limbo as Atletico Madrid’s transfer embargo means that if the Rojiblancos were to sign him this summer, he would not be able to feature until January 2018. That still seems to be preferable to a move to the Chinese Super League, however, as the 28-year-old explained how desperate he is to reunite with Diego Simeone.
“My desire is to go to Atletico,” he added. Atletico are 3rd favourites for the La Liga title behind Real Madrid and Barcelona who can’t be split at the top of the outright market.
“I’ve spoken to Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia. I said, ‘If the manager doesn’t want me, I want to go to Atletico Madrid’.
“I have rejected other offers. They want to sell me to China or other teams. The language is better for me in Spain. If I’m off, I’m going to the club I want to go to — not the club that’s paying the most.
“I am open to being a year in Brazil without playing, even if Chelsea fine me for a year and don’t pay me. I’ll come back stronger. If I was in the wrong, I’d go back now and do as they say.”
Costa finished last season as Chelsea’s top scorer with 20 league goals, but his training ground bust-up with Conte in January had already spelled the end of his time at Stamford Bridge.
The club have since broken their transfer record to sign his international team-mate Alvaro Morata, leaving him no doubt that there is no way back.