VIENNA: New manager Antonio Conte has insisted that Diego Costa is staying at Chelsea despite claims from Spain that the Brazilian-born centre-forward wanted to force a move back to Atletico de Madrid.
Atletico Madrid want to re-sign the 27-year-old, who joined Chelsea from them for £32m in 2014, but Costa has been training with the rest of the Chelsea squad as normal at their pre-season base in Austria. Conte is keen to revive Costa’s form after his comparatively poor campaign last season.
Costa has scored 36 goals in 77 games for the Blues but only 12 last season when the club finished a disappointing 10th under Jose Mourinho and then Guus Hiddink.
He started up front in Chelsea’s 2:0 defeat by Rapid Vienna on Saturday and Conte said the signing of Michy Batshuayi from Marseille for £32m indicated only that the attack needs strengthening
The former Italy manager, preparing for his first campaign in foreign football, said: “Diego Costa is our player. He’s a fantastic player with fundamental importance. He is working very hard. He is very happy to work with his team-mates and with me and there is no problem.
“He is an important player, one of the best in the world, and I am sure when he goes into our ideas he will score a lot of goals for us.”
Conte begin his competitive tenure in England with a London derby against West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on August 15.
By then Conte also hopes to have France defender Kurt Zouma available. Zouma underwent surgery in February after damaging an anterior cruciate ligament during the Premier League game against Manchester United.
Conte said: “Now he has started aerobic work for the first time which shows how well he is recovering but it’s important we don’t push him. I had the same injury and I know from experience when the player is ready to go.”
The manager is also prepared to consider a permanent recall for Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado who scored five goals in 40 appearances on loan at Juventus last season when he helped La Vecchia Signora win the Italian league and cup double.