LONDON, Jan 17: Antonio Conte has no plans to seek out Diego Costa for specially arranged peace talks and will make the striker prove himself all over again before restoring him to his Chelsea starting line-up.
But even if Costa redoubles his efforts and wins back his place, Conte is likely to sanction his sale in the summer and allow the 28-year-old to cash in on Chinese interest.
Having missed the victory over Leicester City, Costa trained on his own on Sunday and Monday ahead of Conte and his first-team squad resuming work on Tuesday when the Spain international will have the back pain that sparked last week’s bust-up assessed.
Conte talks regularly with his squad and maintains an open door policy for his players, but he has not set aside time to summon Costa for a pre-planned heart-to-heart.
Any peace meeting or apology would need to be instigated by Costa, who has been urged to back down by team-mates, as Conte’s philosophy is not to offer any of his players special treatment.
Conte intends to assess Costa’s fitness, performance and state of mind in training this week before deciding whether or not he will play against Hull City on Sunday.
Rather than cancel a scheduled day off with his family to speak to Costa in private, Conte once again allowed the player to stew on his actions of last week and train alone at Chelsea’s Cobham base.
Conte has made it clear the days of the ‘untouchables’ at Chelsea are long gone and he has the full backing of owner Roman Abramovich and the club’s board to deal with Costa how he sees fit.
Chelsea players have been known to go to Abramovich or look for help from the board in the past, but Conte is in full control of squad matters and will have the final say over Costa. There is no pressure on him to ‘kiss and make up’.
Abramovich does not want to sell Costa this month and weaken Conte’s squad as they chase the Premier League title after Chelsea’s top scorer had his head turned by a £30million-a-year net offer from a Chinese club, thought to be Tianjin Quanjian.
But Conte is expected to give the green light to Costa’s sale in the summer, when he can bring in a top-class replacement.
Conte tried to sign Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku last summer, and both men will feature prominently among his targets to replace Costa at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are also among the clubs monitoring whether or not Alexis Sanchez signs a new deal at Arsenal.
Chelsea had hoped to agree a new contract with Costa this season, but there is a growing acceptance that the best case scenario for both parties would be to accept a temporary solution for the remainder of this season and then go their separate ways.
It is understood that Costa has been made aware that Abramovich and Conte do not want to sell him this month which may explain an Instagram message that read ‘Come on Chelsea’ and his willingness to train alone since last week’s row.
Costa will turn 29 in October, so selling him for around £80m to a Chinese club in the summer would represent very good business for Chelsea.
In the short-term, Costa faces a battle to win back his starting place in Conte’s team after Eden Hazard, Pedro Rodriguez and Willian all performed well in Chelsea’s victory over Leicester.
Costa is the Premier League’s joint top scorer with 14 goals, but Conte is clear that his players have to earn their places each week in training.
He has already proved that he is not scared to leave out star players and big personalities, as he has benched captain John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas.
Other than Costa, another striker who looks to be one his way out of Chelsea in the summer is young contract rebel Dominic Solanke.
Solanke stunned Chelsea by demanding £50,000-a-week and first-team assurances last year, and talks aimed at finding a compromise have once again broken down.
The 19-year-old is understood to have told friends that he will quit Stamford Bridge when his current contract expires at the end of the season.
Solanke trained with Conte’s first team for part of this season and appeared on the substitutes’ bench as Chelsea attempted to resolve the stand-off with the player.
But he has since dropped back down to the Under-23s and rejected another contract offer before negotiations hit another impasse.
Chelsea will be due compensation, which could run as high as £5m, if Solanke joins another English club but the England Under-21 international is free to speak to foreign clubs this month.
Were Solanke to move abroad, or to Scotland, then Chelsea would only collect in the region of £300,000 for the player. AGENCIES