Former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has opened up on the infamous Diego Costa transfer saga that saw the striker leave Stamford Bridge to seal a return to Atletico Madrid in September 2017, admitting that he “wanted to leave many times.”
Having played key roles in helping Chelsea win the Premier League title in both 2014/15 and 2016/17, as well as helping the Blues lift the Carabao Cup in 2014/15, Costa was desperate to move on throughout the 2016/17 season, even though he scored 22 goals in all competitions.Throughout that campaign, as Chelsea were cruising their way to the title, Costa wanted to pursue either a move to China or a return to Atletico.
In the end, having been told he was not part of Conte’s plans ahead of the 2017/18 season, the Spain striker sealed a transfer to Atletico in September 2017, but the deal would not officially be concluded until the following January.
Costa, of course, went about his demands of leaving the club in a controversial manner, sending a text message to Conte outlining his desire to leave the west London club.
“First of all, I am a person that doesn’t want to speak badly about a situation with a player from a club that I trained,” Conte told The Telegraph.
“It’s right always to keep good memories and I prefer to keep good memories also about Diego Costa because we won together a league title in an incredible season.
“But, for sure, the truth, we know the truth. The player, his agent, the club and I. We know how many times he asked to go away to Atletico Madrid at the start of the season, during the season to go to China, and at the end of the season to join, again, Atletico Madrid.
“This is the truth and, honestly, in my career I want to have players who are concentrated on my team and not to consider my team a second choice. My team must be the first choice.
“It was an incredible season and I managed, together with the club, the Diego Costa situation in the best possible way. But, in the end, the truth was only that the player wanted to leave many times to Atletico Madrid and during the season to go to China because he wanted the best contract.”
Less than a year after Costa departed Stamford Bridge, Conte, now in charge of Italian giants Inter Milan, followed suit, as he was sacked by Blues owner Roman Abramovich.
Detailing his exit from the club in July 2018, Conte said: “It’s always very difficult when there is a stop between the club and the coach.
“I think never, never the club try to explain the decision. But in our job we must accept this type of situation.
“To be the coach of Chelsea is not simple. You must live with great pressure, especially from the outside, but it was a pity to stop my coaching after only two seasons because I created a real link with the fans and with the players.
“Sometimes, you can agree because the results are negative and sometimes, you don’t understand why. But I think you must accept and I keep good memories with Chelsea, the club, with Mr Abramovich, who is a very passionate man for his football. It was incredible, especially in my first season, because he was very, very close to me, asking about my football and my ideas.
“Many times he came to the training ground to meet me and I remember he wanted to watch the video about our game and about our preparation – the way we wanted to face the opponent. I think in my career, he was one of the most passionate men about football and I keep good memories about him and about the club, an important club in the world.”
Since leaving Chelsea just over two years ago, a further two managers have obtained the Stamford Bridge managerial hot seat. First, fellow Italian Maurizio Sarri took over the reins before leaving to take over at Juventus in June 2019.
Now, the responsibility rests on the shoulders of club legend Frank Lampard, who, following a solid first season in charge last term, is starting to get the very best out of his team after a busy summer of transfer activity.
On the work Lampard has done so far, Conte said: “Lampard is, for sure, doing a good job and he knows very well the club because he’s a legend for Chelsea.
“I think it was the same when I started with Juventus because I knew very well the club and the way that you had to follow to reach your target. Lampard is the right coach for Chelsea.”