Antonio Conte has sparked more uncertainty over Diego Costa’s long-term future after admitting talks over a new Chelsea contract should not be held until summer.
Costa is available for selection again after missing the 3-0 win over Premier League champions Leicester last week with a back injury.
His absence also coincided with an offer from Tianjin Guanjian worth over £570,000-a-week and amid talk of a row between the forward, Conte and a fitness coach at the training ground.
Costa, who is the club’s top scorer this season with 14 league goals, has just over two years left on his current deal and continues to be linked with other clubs.
While Conte insists Costa is staying for the rest of the campaign, he doesn’t think it’s important Chelsea secure him on a long-term deal at this moment to put an end to the speculation.
When asked if he’d like the club to offer Costa a new contract now, he said: “No, I think now is better to be focused and concentrate on the present, not the future.
“Now it’s important he has these four months in a very strong way and then we’ll see. It’s important now to be focused on the present and not see too far (into the future), in my opinion.”
Pressed on whether he had told him this in person, he added: “No, no. I’m sure about this.
“Diego is a good player, a good person, and now he’s only focused on Chelsea and to play with us, and continue to help us.
“I repeat: he missed only one game, the last game, and now he’s ready to come back with us.
“I’m sure about his commitment, his behaviour, his will to fight with this team and to try, together, to fight until the end to try and win the title.”
It was understood before the events of the past week that Chelsea had planned to give the Spain international an extension before the season ended.
But with Conte suggesting the situation has changed, it will give encouragement to former club Atletico Madrid and other sides that a summer transfer is possible.
Conte made it clear though that Costa won’t be sold this month and claimed the striker is fine with that.
“I think the player wants to stay in Chelsea,” he said. “He’s very happy to play with us. This idea (the bid from Tianjin Guanjian) is far (away) in his mind. He’s happy. He’s happy to stay here and play with us. This is the most important thing for us.
Should Costa face Hull, it will his 100th appearance for the Blues since joining from Atletico for £32m in 2014.
He has scored 50 goals for Chelsea in that time and Conte said: “That is a great achievement for him, his 100th appearance. That’s fantastic to play for the same team (that many times). I hope to celebrate this 100th appearance with a win. I hope.
“He’s an important player for us. We all know this. When he stays in good form, he’s always played with me.”