Antonio Conte brands Diego Costa speculation 'disrespectful' following victory over Leicester

The Italian also denied any knowledge of interest from Chinese clubs in his leading scorer

Conte would not discuss speculation currently surrounding Costa
Conte would not discuss speculation currently surrounding Costa

Antonio Conte branded questions regarding Diego Costa’s future at Chelsea in the wake of Saturday evening's victory over Leicester City as 'disrespectful', and refused to comment on speculation surrounding the forward.

The Chelsea manager played a straight bat when asked about Costa’s absence from Premier League leaders’ squad for the game at the King Power Stadium, explaining he had suffered a pain in his back in training and denying any knowledge of interest from Chinese clubs in his leading scorer.

Instead he attempted to shift the focus on to a significant victory for his side who, in their first league fixture after defeat at Tottenham Hotspur, shrugged aside Costa’s absence to record an impressive 3-0 victory through two goals from wing-back Marcos Alonso and a third from Spanish forward Pedro.

“If you want to know the truth, I am ready to tell the truth,” said Conte when asked about Costa. “The truth is that on Tuesday during the training session, Diego stopped because he felt a pain in his back and from that moment he didn’t train during the week and for this reason today he wasn’t available to come with the squad.

“I read a lot of speculation about this topic, I can tell you if there are the problems – and I repeat, if there are problems – I am used in my career to solving the problems in the changing room, not outside in the press conference. I repeat if.”

When asked when he would be fit to play again, Costa replied: “I don’t know, it is always very difficult –I don’t have his pain, it is important to understand when he recovers from his pain.”

Costa had attempted to inject some light relief at the start of his press conference by taking a bite from a reporter’s slice of cake but he was in no mood to shed any light on his reported training-ground row with Costa – or the interest of Chinese clubs in the Premier League’s joint-leading scorer. “The club did not inform me about this and for this reason it can be only speculation,” he said on the latter.

Nor would he discuss Costa’s future when the question was put to him. “Today I can’t be concerned about this because today my players showed me a great performance, great team spirit,” responded the Italian, who said that it was disrespectful to be talking about Costa and not those players who had earned Chelsea a victory that restored their seven-point lead at the Premier League summit. “It is a lack of respect for the other players for our performance,” he said, adding: “We start to think, ‘If an offer arrives’ [but] for me I don’t like to answer this type of question – if, if... Now there is this victory and we must enjoy it.

“We started this game with great pressure after Tottenham’s victory and Arsenal’s victory and we had to show good experience to manage this situation because we’ve just started the second part of the season and in every game it will be important to take points.”

Costa's future remains unclear

The Costa question aside, this was an impressive statement from Chelsea, who had a list of impressive performers led by Alonso and midfielders Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante, who was warmly applauded by the home supporters on his return to the King Power.

For Leicester, by comparison, it was their fourth defeat in a six-match winless run in the Premier League but manager Claudio Ranieri said he was not worried about his team, currently 15th, sliding further down the table. “The mentality is right, this team is used to fighting,” he said. “Three seasons ago they fought to win the Championship, two seasons ago they were in a battle against relegation and they survived, and last season they won title. This team and these players are used to fighting.”

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