• Conte plans to keep hold of Costa

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    Diego Costa AFP PHOTO

    Diego Costa AFP PHOTO

    LONDON: Chelsea manager Antonio Conte insisted Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) he has no intention of letting Spain striker Diego Costa leave the Premier League club.

    Costa, 27, has been linked with a return to former club Atletico Madrid after a troubled second season in England.

    Conte’s decision to sign Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi from Marseille increased speculation the temperamental Costa may be allowed to quit Stamford Bridge.

    But Conte, who officially took charge of Chelsea earlier this month after finishing his role as Italy coach at Euro 2016, is determined to keep Costa, whose goals propelled the Blues to the Premier League title under Jose Mourinho in 2015.

    “Diego is our player. He is a fantastic player, a player with a fundamental importance and there is no problem,” Conte told Chelsea’s website.

    “He stays with us, he is working very hard, he is very happy to work with his team-mates and with me in the new idea of football. He is a Chelsea player.

    “He is an important player, a very strong player, one of the best in the world, and I am sure when he goes into our ideas he will score a lot of goals for us.”

    Chelsea face WAC RZ Pellets in a friendly on Wednesday having lost their opening match under Conte to another Austrian side Rapid Vienna over the weekend.

    They will again be without Kurt Zouma as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury sustained against Manchester United in February, but Conte revealed the France defender is making progress.

    “Today he (Zouma) started the aerobic work for the first time,” Conte said.

    Asked if the 21-year-old was involved, the Italian replied: “No. We wait because we must respect the right time for him.

    “We know he is recovering but I know he needs more time to recover. It’s important we don’t push him.

    “I had the same injury and I know from experience when the player is ready to go.”

    AFP

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