Football

Costa admits he almost left Chelsea

Diego Costa might be firing Premier League leaders Chelsea's title charge with 14 goals and five assists, but the Blues were close to losing him in the summer.

The Spaniard has been a key cog in Chelsea's 13-game winning streak, but admitted he almost sealed a return to former club Atletico Madrid.

The 28-year-old had a lacklustre last season, appearing frustrated and scoring just three times before Jose Mourinho was sacked at the end of 2015, before going on a run to finish the campaign with a respectable tally of 16 goals.

In an apparent dig at Mourinho, a happier Costa praised manger Antonio Conte for being "someone whose support (the players) can count on in difficult moments".

He told Sky Sports: "Could I have gone in the summer? Yes, yes. I was about to leave.

"I was about to but, well, I'm happy here as well and that's that.

"Did I want to go? Yes, yes. I had the possibility to go to Atletico, because of a few things, the family, the life I have there but not because of Chelsea, because here, there's a lot of love with the supporters, with the people. So, I'm very happy here.

LOVED

"People love me a lot. There was one thing I wanted to change for family reasons but, well, it wasn't to be and I continue to be happy here.

"It was important, too, that the manager, from the very first minute, said he counted on me.

"The truth is the manager is good with the players.

"It's good for us to have a manager who is not just a boss but also like a person we can talk with, someone whose support we can count on in difficult moments."

Former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino added that Conte is on track to being more successful than The Special One, the club's most successful manager.

He told talkSPORT: "He's taken the notch a little bit higher than even Jose did. It feels like that to me.

"Something very, very special is happening at Chelsea and fans feel so comfortable with their manager."

Should Conte mastermind a win over London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday morning (Singapore time), they will have the special distinction of equalling Arsenal's record of 14 consecutive victories.

But, for that to happen, the Italian believes his Blues must beat a side that are better from the one that at times looked like they might pip Leicester City to the title last season.

Conte told Chelsea's official website: "Tottenham are a great team. Last season, they could have won the title and, this season, they have a stronger team." - WIRE SERVICES

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