AC Milan have held talks with so-called "super-agent" Jorge Mendes amid rumours that they are interested in providing striker Diego Costa with an escape route from Chelsea.
Costa, whose 20 goals in 2016-17 helped fire Antonio Conte's side to the Premier League title, is expected to depart Stamford Bridge before the end of the summer transfer window after being informed by his manager that he does not feature in plans for next season.
A return to Atletico Madrid would be the ideal scenario for the fiery Brazilian-born Spanish international, previously subject of strong interest from China. However, his former employers are currently serving a Fifa ban that prevents them from registering any new players until January.
It was briefly mooted that he could link up with reigning Turkish champions Besiktas on a short-term loan before rejoining Los Colchoneros in the New Year.
Subsequent reports that Milan met with Mendes earlier this week in order to discuss three of his clients - Costa, Renato Sanches of Bayern Munich and Monaco striker Radamel Falcao - gave rise to speculation that the 28-year-old could become the latest recruit of a remarkable spending spree that has thus far seen no fewer than 10 new signings arrive at the San Siro.
Asked about that meeting and Costa by Sky Sports, Rossoneri CEO Marco Fassone said: "I would prefer to avoid talking about players from other teams; Diego Costa is a great player, but a Chelsea player.
"We went to see Jorge Mendes; there is a lot you can talk to him about. Costa is a great player but he is of Chelsea. That's all."
Costa did not report back for pre-season training with Chelsea after being given extra time off to resolve his future and, along with Nemanja Matic, was then omitted from the 25-man squad for the pre-season tour of China and Singapore. He later set tongues wagging by being filmed in an Atletico shirt and apparently saying "give Conte a hug" as he partied during a holiday in Brazil, where he was later videoed beginning his own preparations for the new campaign on a beach.
The Guardian reported earlier this month that Chelsea's asking price for Costa, who wants to play for Spain at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, is now likely to stand at around the £40m ($52.3m) mark, an obvious drop off from the £76m that Tianjin Quanjian were previously said to be willing to pay.
Discussing Costa during a press conference last week, Conte confirmed that the decision to sell him was made months ago and that there was no way back. Chelsea completed the £60m signing of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid last week and he is set to become the club's new first-choice striker.
"I don't like to talk about players who are not here," Conte said. "In January, the Costa situation was made very clear. For the club, for him and his agent and for me the situation is closed."