Chelsea striker Diego Costa has challenged reports regarding an imminent move to the cash-rich Chinese Super League (CSL), insisting that he is in charge of his own future.
The fiery Spaniard followed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Didier Drogba in becoming only the third Chelsea player to notch 20 or more times in a single top-flight campaign on Monday night (8 May) as Antonio Conte's side moved to within one win of the title courtesy of a emphatic 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge that saw hapless Middlesbrough consigned to the Championship.
That 23rd-minute opener was only Costa's third goal since March and rumours regarding his future have been circulating for months.
Cadena Ser reported last week that Tianjin Quanjian, who failed to sign Costa during the January transfer window before his supposed row with Conte and fitness coach Julio Tous over a back injury, had reached pre-agreement on a deal that would see him net €30m (£25.2m, $32.7m) per year.
Such speculation only intensified after owner Shu Yuhui confirmed that Tianjin had "agreed terms with two or three stars", although the club subsequently released a statement asserting that they had not been communicating with Costa over any transfer.
Quizzed about his situation following that win over sorry 'Boro, Costa told DIRECTV Sports: "I am the owner of my future and it does not mean that I am going to China."
Conte has remained coy on Costa's fate, recently stressing that it was vital that all of his players remained fully focused on the task at hand as they seek to complete Chelsea's second Premier League/FA Cup double and a second since the reign of Carlo Ancelotti in 2010.
"I don't know about this [a deal for Costa to move to China]," he said. "I think now it's very important for every single player, for every single person that works for Chelsea, to be focused on the present. The present is very important for us. Now is more important than the future. To be focused, to be concentrated, to prepare in the right way for these five games from now until the end."
Chelsea are believed to be already preparing for life without Costa, who is currently under contract until the end of June 2019. Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, prolific Everton forward Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid are among their top targets, although former boss Jose Mourinho is also said to be keen on the latter pair before a summer window in which he is likely to look to retool Manchester United's attack ahead of the possible exits of Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.