Costa replied in what has been described as a “jokey” way, though precisely how good the joke was remains shrouded in mystery. Given that Costa once thought it hilarious to pretend to throw a fire extinguisher at reporters, it was probably not great. Conte sent him a private response, informing him that he was not in the manager’s plans for the future. “O.K.,” Costa sent back.
Approaching four months later, he remains in exile. Costa spent the summer in his native Brazil, occasionally interrupting his busy schedule of watching daytime television to open his door to journalists.
He was, he made clear, holding out for a transfer back to Atlético Madrid, his former club in Spain. He would not countenance moving anywhere else. When that switch did not materialize — FIFA has banned Atlético from registering players until January — Costa proved good to his word. He has still not returned to London, or to Chelsea. As things stand, he will linger on hiatus until the New Year, when he hopes Atlético will come to his rescue.
Chelsea, on the surface, has already moved on. Conte tried and failed to sign Romelu Lukaku this summer before landing Álvaro Morata, the…