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Conte dismisses Atléti's Costa claim: "He's key for Chelsea"

The Chelsea coach moved to shoot down rumours over Diego Costa after Atlético Madrid president Enrique Cerezo claimed the Spanish club were "close" to signing the striker

Chelsea coach Antonio Conte took advantage of a press conference on Tuesday to try shoot down rumours over the possible exit of Diego Costa and send a message to Atlético Madrid president Enrique Cerezo, who on Monday claimed that the Rojiblancos were “close” to signing the striker.

Conte: "He’s very happy and working hard”

“Diego Costa is our player,” said the Italian. “He’s a fantastic footballer with fundamental importance to me. He’s very happy and working hard.”

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte

Despite his words, Conte is well aware of Costa’s intention to leave Stamford Bridge. As AS reported earlier this month, the player has already told the West London club that he wants to return to Atlético. Costa has laid his cards on the table, and although he doesn’t want to fracture his relationship with Chelsea by making his intentions public, the Blues already know where his heart lies: in the Spanish capital.

Cerezo: It’s close, but I can’t say any more than that.”

Atlético president Cerezo has made no secret of his admiration for Costa. In an interview with Gazzamercato on Monday he said: “We like him a lot, I admit it. We have spoken to the player and we’re working to bring him back to Madrid. It’s close, but I can’t say any more than that.”

However, the operation for Costa will be a complicated one. While there is a good amount of time in the transfer window remaining, Chelsea will not be in a position to open negotiations for the Spanish-Brazilian until they sign a replacement.