It took Diego Costa just one half of football, albeit stoppage time included, to close any wounds created by his suspicious absence versus Leicester City amid rumours of a stunning move to the Chinese Super League.
Indeed, far from letting media speculation get under his skin, the Premier League’s top scorer pushed his campaign tally to 15 on Sunday with the opening strike against a defiant Hull City side, who eventually left Stamford Bridge on the receiving end of a 2-0 defeat.
It seems the Chelsea-Conte-Costa love triangle is back on, but how long it holds out for amid the ever-distracting era of the modern transfer market remains to be seen. According to London Evening Standard, the Blues are open to parting with their star centre-forward in the summer once their Premier League title charge is done and dusted.
Of course, it could be simply tabloid rumour mongering, but there are reasons for Chelsea to sell; well-known hamstring problems, a questionable attitude, an upcoming 29th birthday and now the notion of his ‘head being turned’ by the fortunes on offer in the Far East.
Most at the club feel it is imperative that Costa stay now, but the expectation is that he will be allowed leave when the season ends. In what is likely to be a striker carousel that sees him replace the Manchester United-bound Antoine Griezmann at Atletico Madrid, Chelsea will then go for one of Everton’s Romelu Lukaku or Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata. The club hierarchy have always wanted to bring Lukaku back, though Conte favours Morata. Meanwhile, Christian Benteke is viewed as a perfect back-up.
None of those forwards, however, have ever offered anything close to the strike-rate Costa has produced in the last few seasons. The next best is Lukaku, whose rate of 0.43 goals per game still pales next to the 0.63 of the Spanish international.
Costa has genuinely become a special player, one now very often winning games rather than spoiling them. Next few fixtures could be hugely influential in who ends up winning the title. If Costa continues his superb form, it will be difficult not to say Chelsea. If he doesn’t, things could get very interesting.