Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has branded Diego Costa’s transfer speculations as attempts by people to create disorder at the club.
Costa and Chelsea reportedly received a huge offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian in January – £32 million a year and £80 million fee respectively – and as a result the Spanish forward has failed to replicate his form from earlier in the season.
Costa hasn’t scored a goal in seven games as Chelsea are in the midst of trying to fend off a challenge from in-form Tottenham Hotspur with five games to go until the end of season.
“For strikers it’s very important to score. Goals are your life.” Conte told reporters. “I always said I’m very pleased with his commitment, his work for the team. I was always confident about him.
“I continue to repeat this concept: it’s important to be focused on the moment because the moment is very important for all of us. In this period, I’m reading a lot of speculation about every one of us. It’s right to be focused. I’m sure my players are focused on their targets.
“It’s normal at this part of the season to have someone who wants to put problems in your team, to create also ‘not order’, but we must be stronger that this speculation.
“We must be compact and think our target is really [more] important than the other teams.”
Costa went missing again in the Blues’ 4-2 victory over Spurs in the FA Cup semi-final during the weekend, but Conte is convinced his players will keep united in the closing stages of this year’s Premier League.
The Italian manager has been vocal in regard to mind games from other managers as his verbal sparrings with Jose Mourinho testify, but has also made his distaste at the friction such interaction creates known.
He has been considered a Premier League revolutionary of sort, leading several managers to emulate his trademark three-man defence which has kept Chelsea at the top of the table so far.
Costa was spotted earlier to be fooling around at the Cobham training centre, leading to further speculation he is ‘bored’ with life at Chelsea and may seek a change in environment in the summer.
The Blues travel to Goodison Park to play sixth-place Everton on Sunday.