Diego Costa has been ordered by Chelsea to return to training, get match-fit and make himself available for selection.
This is the first hint that Costa could have a future at Stamford Bridge, after manager Antonio Conte informed him via a text message, to look for a new club this summer.
Conte later revealed the decision was made in January, when the Spain striker was pushing for a move to Chinese Super League outfit, Tianjin Quanjian. The incident led to him being dropped, after a clash with fitness coach Julio Tous. The 28-year-old striker has since decided he would rather return to Atletico Madrid, but the clubs are not close to an agreement.
Talks have stalled and Costa’s lawyers want him released on a free transfer, because his contract has been breached by Conte’s message.
Costa, whos is in his home town of Lagarto in Brazil, was dropped for preseason in China and Singapore, after the Blues gave him permission to negotiate a move away.
Chelsea, however, are not prepared to let Costa languish on the other side of the Atlantic when he has two years left on a £180,000-a-week contract and they are short of players.
His return might see tensions heightened within the squad, with Conte already frustrated with the club’s failure to bring in some of his transfer targets.
His reservations about the strength of his squad were compounded by the sale of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United. The Premier League champions also began the new season with a shock 3-2 home loss to Burnley.
Conte’s current deal expires in 2019, but there are fears he might leave the club if he feels his authority is threatened.
He is already the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next manager to leave