Chelsea’s wantaway forward Diego Costa is prepared to consider a money-spinning move to China if Atletico Madrid cannot afford to take him back to Spain this summer.
Costa may quit despite Conte’s promise of Champions League football
Despite confirmation that Antonio Conte will take over as head coach after Euro 2016, Costa remains keen to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of this season.
Atletico have already confirmed their interest in re-signing Costa but have also cast doubts over whether they will be able to find the kind of money Chelsea would demand to let the 27-year-old go.
PSG have been sounded out over Costa, but it is the clubs in the Chinese Super League that have signalled their willingness to spend over £70 million to take him to Asia.
Brazilian would more than double his £185,000-a-week salary by going to China and would link up with a number of other Brazilian-born footballers who have already made the move, including Ramires, Alex Teixeira, Paulinho, and Jo.
The agent of Costa, Jorge Mendes, has expanded his business empire into China and has forged a close relationship with the president of the People’s Republic, Xi Jinping.
Conte will speak with Costa about his future, but the Blues’ top scorer is thought to be intent on leaving Chelsea after becoming fed up with life in England and non-stop criticism over his discipline. He is suspended for this weekend’s clash against Swansea City.
Returning to Atletico and linking up again with Diego Simeone would be Costa’s first choice and the Spanish club will do everything in their power to negotiate a deal for the player they sold to Chelsea for £32.5m in 2014.
Costa may well need to fight his way back to Atletico, however, with La Liga unable to match the riches on offer from China.
Pushing Costa towards China would be far more beneficial to Chelsea and also extinguish any danger of the forward coming back to haunt them in the Champions League.
Chelsea will have to spend big to replace Costa, with Edinson Cavani, Gonzalo Higuain, and Romelu Lukaku all among the targets of Conte and the club.
Securing over £70m for Costa from a Chinese club would enable Chelsea to trigger the £72m buy-out clause in Higuain’s Napoli contract. It would also comfortably cover PSG’s asking price for Cavani and, perhaps significantly, help to justify a move to re-sign Lukaku from Everton.
Technical director Michael Emenalo is a big fan of Lukaku and felt the Belgian was sold too soon by Chelsea in 2014.
The success of Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne away from Chelsea has raised questions over Chelsea’s recent transfer policy. But Emenalo and the Blues could argue that Everton effectively paid £28m to develop the 22-year-old.
Chelsea could still make a profit on the overall deal by selling Costa to China and re-signing Lukaku, in much the same way as they justified taking Nemanja Matic back by selling De Bruyne and Juan Mata in January 2014.
Although Lukaku has made it clear he wants to play in the Champions League, which Chelsea have not qualified for next season, the striker has not ruled out the possibility of returning to his former home where he feels he still has unfinished business.
Costa is not the only Chelsea player to be attracting the interest of Chinese Super League clubs, with Oscar and captain John Terry also targeted.