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Five flashpoints in Diego Costa and Antonio Conte's rocky relationship

Five flashpoints in Diego Costa and Antonio Conte's rocky relationship
From ESPN - September 21, 2017

This article first appeared on ESPN FC on Aug. 8, 2017.

Diego Costa's roller coaster three-year spell at Chelsea finally appears to be over after Atletico Madrid agreed a fee for him to return in January.

Antonio Conte had already informed him he is not wanted at Stamford Bridge and relations between the two men have been volatile from the start. Though Costa enjoyed the most prolific season of his Chelsea career in 2016-17 under Conte, scoring 20 Premier League goals for a title-winning team, there were hints throughout the campaign that things could end this way.

ESPN FC takes a look at the five flashpoints that have led Costa and Conte to a public and messy separation.

Costa tries to force Atletico return

Costa has never hidden the fact that he does not particularly like living in England and, given the choice, would quite like to go back to Atletico Madrid, where he first emerged as one of the world's most formidable strikers under Diego Simeone.

Last summer, with a disastrous campaign that cost Jose Mourinho his job at Chelsea fresh in the mind, Costa tried to take control of his destiny.

"On Conte's first day [at Chelsea], I told him that I wanted to join Atletico, and he was upset with me and did not even look at me," Costa told El Larguero in March, adding,"I did all that I could to return [to Spain], but it did not happen."

Chelsea's unwavering stance that Costa was not for sale eventually forced Atletico to turn to Kevin Gameiro from Sevilla. Meanwhile, Costa began the Premier League season on fire, scoring seven goals in his first seven games -- but the tone of his uneasy relationship with Conte had been set.

Conte refuses request to be substituted

Just as spectacular as Costa's goal scoring in the opening weeks of the season was his indiscipline. Four bookings in his first six Premier League appearances had the Spain international on the verge of suspension by the time Leicester City visited Stamford Bridge on Oct. 15.

Midway through the second half, with Chelsea ahead 3-0 and cruising toward victory, an agitated Costa clearly indicated to the Chelsea bench several times that he wanted to be substituted.

It was claimed afterward that he was worried about a fifth booking, while sources told ESPN FC that a small muscular injury was causing discomfort. His angry body language, however, suggested frustration at Conte's relentless instructions from the touchline.

In any case, Conte refused to indulge his striker. "I always take the responsibility in every situation, positive or negative," Chelsea's head coach said after the match. "Substitutions are always my decision."

A back injury and a bid from China

Chelsea led the Premier League by five points when news broke in January that Conte had dropped Costa for an away match against Leicester City after a furious training-ground row with a fitness coach over a back injury.

- Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) January 22, 2017
- Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) March 18, 2017

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