Antonio Conte believes Diego Costa put an end to the speculations linking him with a move away from Chelsea after scoring a goal in the 2-0 win over Hull City on Sunday (22 January). However, the Italian boss refused to confirm whether the Blues plan to offer him a new contract to commit his long-term future to Stamford Bridge.
Costa missed the previous 3-0 victory over Leicester City after reports revealed that the Spaniard had a row with the Chelsea boss during a training session – and amid the reported interest of Tianjin Quanjian to lure him to the Chinese Super League.
However, Conte claimed the striker had been suffering from a back injury and restored him to the Chelsea line-up for the visit of Hull. Costa scored the opener as the Premier League leaders moved eight points clear of Arsenal at the top of the table.
"You must tell me if I did well to put Diego in the starting 11," Conte said after the match." I told you in the press conference [on Friday] I have to make the best decision for the team, and if he wasn't ready to play, or my choice was bad, it's my fault, not the player's fault.
"He played a very good game with a good attitude. Now it's important to rest because he used a lot of physical and mental energy. Tomorrow we have a day off and then we start to prepare for the FA Cup."
Costa himself appeared to respond to the speculation about his transfer with his celebration of the goal as he flapped his hands open and closed as if to say "it's all talk".
But Conte said: "Honestly, I didn't see it because I was celebrating on the bench. Sometimes when we score its very dangerous for my staff. It's important to score a goal and celebrate in any way, Diego played a good game and I hope with his performance he finished the speculation about him. We showed we are a team with great unity. That's the real value because we stayed at the top of the table."
Conte, however, failed to confirm whether Costa's long-term future lies at Stamford Bridge amid suggestions that the club could consider letting him go at the end of the campaign.
Asked whether Chelsea are planning to offer Costa a new improved deal, Conte replied: "A new contract? I don't know. This decision is something you have to take together with the club. But, I repeat, I don't see any problem with Diego and his contract.
"Diego has two years left on his contract. He's very happy to stay with us and play for Chelsea. Now we must concentrate on the present and not look too far ahead. If we do that we risk losing the present, and that's more important than the future."