Football

Costa could return to Chelsea

Blues expect striker to prove his fitness, even if he is not wanted by Conte

Chelsea want Diego Costa to end his exile, return to London and prove his fitness, Press Association Sport understands.

Costa has criticised Chelsea's treatment of him this summer, saying he is "not a criminal", and said he is prepared to remain in exile for a year as he agitates for a return to Atletico Madrid.

But it is understood that Chelsea want Costa, as a player with two years remaining on his contract, to return to the club.

The Blues also expect the Brazil-born Spain striker to prove his fitness and make himself available for selection, even though he is no longer in manager Antonio Conte's plans.

After being granted an additional week of leave and missing the pre-season tour to Asia, Costa is still to return to London around two weeks after his anticipated arrival.

The 28-year-old, speaking at his family home in Lagarto, Brazil, said he has not reported for training as he does not want to train with the Blues' reserves, and is happy staying in Brazil and paying club fines until his future is resolved.

He told The Daily Mail: "They gave me a week extra off but, since then, it's fines all the way.

"They want me training with the reserves. I am not going to do that.

"I am not a criminal and I am not in the wrong here. So, if they need to fine me, let them fine me."

Chelsea do not have a reserve team, only age-group sides, and Costa has been given no indication that he would be expected to train with them, Press Association Sport understands.

Costa joined Chelsea from Atletico in July 2014.

He has twice won the Premier League title during his three years at Stamford Bridge and scored 59 goals in 120 appearances.

The Spanish international claimed that he was told he was not wanted by Conte via text message in the summer and said he wishes to return to Atletico.

The Blues declined to respond to Costa's comments.

Chelsea and Conte have previously insisted that the decision for Costa to leave this summer was made in January, with both the player and his agent, Jorge Mendes, aware.

Costa only wants to move to Atletico, who are under a transfer embargo and cannot register new players until January.

In Costa's absence, the Blues lost 3-2 to Burnley last Saturday.

Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright said that Costa's refusal to return to training with Chelsea is "disgraceful".

"I don't understand how players can get away with that behaviour," Wright told BBC Radio.

"It's disgraceful the way he is behaving.

"Surely he's got to come back here, so if the manager changes his mind, he's there.

"He's earning a fortune at Chelsea. Can Atletico Madrid even afford him?"

Meanwhile, Gareth Barry was set to undergo a medical at West Bromwich Albion yesterday ahead of a proposed move from Everton.

The 36-year-old midfielder is expected to sign a 12-month contract at The Hawthorns with the option of another year.

An ankle injury saw him miss Everton's 1-0 win over Stoke last weekend, but the problem is not expected to complicate any deal and Barry could even be fit to make his debut when West Brom face Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday.

West Brom manager Tony Pulis has been looking for a replacement for Darren Fletcher in central midfield after he left for Stoke this summer and the experienced Barry fits the bill. - WIRE SERVICES

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