What should Chelsea boss Antonio Conte do with wantaway star Diego Costa?by Andy Dillon / 20 January 2017, 12:10Tweet
The future of Chelsea star Diego Costa has dominated the headlines over the last week.
Blues boss Antonio Conte faces a dilemma over what to do with his striker this weekend, with Andy Dillon (@andydillon70) arguing that he shouldn't be dropped again, as it's more punishment for the player to be forced out onto the pitch to face the fans.
ANTONIO CONTE faces the first serious test of his character and managerial talents over the next 24 hours.
Diego Costa’s bizarre behaviour over the past week amid a highly lucrative offer from Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian put the player’s relations with his boss and the club’s fans under strain.
Costa’s reputation among the supporters has been volatile for some time.
In December 2015 he was branded a rat and accused of plotting the downfall of boss Conte’s predecessor Jose Mourinho.
The fans should be grateful for that ironically, because Mourinho’s axing paved the way for Conte to take over and perform a staggering rescue job on a squad listing dangerously in rocky seas.
But barely 12 months later the finger of suspicion is pointing at tetchy Costa again as he falls out with a club fitness coach in the wake of a £30 million a year deal on the table from the Chinese Super League.
Dropped from the squad entirely last week Costa is now back in the fold but what does Conte do about it?
Chelsea won 3-0 in his absence at Leicester last Saturday and the old philosophy goes that you don’t break up a winning team.
The players who stuck three past the defending Premier League champions managed ok without him after all.
Sunday’s opposition is struggling Hull, so there’s no need to panic and Conte could teach Costa a lesson by dropping him again.
But that would be playing firmly into the player’s hands. That would give Costa the ammunition to fire up his bid to wriggle out of Chelsea and head to the Far East.
No doubt the Spaniard would claim he was ‘unwanted’ and that Conte’s treatment of him disrespectful.
It would affirm Conte’s iron rule of the squad as the man who calls the shots and someone not to be messed with but at a high price.
Conte’s other option is to force Costa to earn his money, make him go out and face the paying customers who sing his name every week and who have been left stunned by the latest actions of a tempestuous player in an increasingly volatile industry.
Surely this makes more sense for Chelsea in the long term?
After all, Costa is their top scorer, he has 14 goals this season and is the spearhead of a thriving team.
But more importantly than that after Hull this weekend, Arsenal and Liverpool are the two next opponents in Chelsea’s bid to claim the Premier League title.
As talented as they are, Marcos Alonso and Pedro cannot be relied upon to score matchwinning goals for Chelsea against those teams as they did against shaky Leicester.
Conte’s impeccably-timed back injury which was the public reason for him being ruled out of last week’s game, has now cleared up miraculously.
The Spaniard is back in action and been pictured smiling with his team-mates at the training ground all week.
It’s business as usual according to the PR machine but it’s not really so.
Chelsea are privately resigned to their star striker leaving them at the end of this season even as it appears, the window to earn megabucks in China seems to be closing for him.
Club sources make it clear on the quiet that they would be happy to see him go in May, as long as it is with a Premier League winners’ medal in his hand.
Between now and then Conte has to use the expert man management techniques which got him the Chelsea job in the first place to best effect.
Plotting tactics to beat Manchester City, Arsenal and all their other title rivals is easy compared to handling someone like Costa.