All decisions have consequences, and football managers in particular live or die by the paths that they choose during the course of their job.
So, with the Mirror reporting that Atletico Madrid are closing in on a £30 million deal for Chelsea outcast and former Los Rojiblancos striker Diego Costa, Antonio Conte will be the latest manager to put himself on the line with a seemingly impulsive leadership decision.
After telling the controversial forward that he was no longer part of the club’s plans by text at the end of last season, one of the summer’s most unsavoury transfer sagas could well be coming to a close.
The question is whether Conte will rue his decision in a season in which Chelsea must compete on both domestic and continental fronts, or unify the squad by removing an occasionally unsettling influence from its midst?
Will Conte return home to Madrid?
The deal itself is an unusual one, as while all parties are motivated to complete the transfer there is no guarantee that Atletico will sign their man before the window closes.
Due to the breakdown of the relationship between player and manager and Costa’s decision to remain in his native Brazil until a deal is concluded, Chelsea are determined to drive a hard bargain and the club’s posturing has hindered talks.
Even with a £30 million compromise in the offing, this is a transfer that is likely to run and run until the final moments of the window.
Atletico’s transfer embargo has also complicated any potential deal, but as The Guardian confirmed in pre-season the club can officially agree terms with Costa if Chelsea accept their bid.
The player would then be eligible to represent the club when the embargo is lifted on January, although Atletico would be keen for Costa to play on loan somewhere else in order to maintain his match fitness. This is unlikely to be a deal-breaker, but it could distract Atletico in their attempts to land the Brazilian-born Spanish striker.
Everton may also be ready to provide a solution, with the club short of established strikers and the Independent reporting that manager Ronald Koeman would be willing to secure his services on a short-term loan. This would certainly add another piece to the jigsaw, helping to smooth any complications and help Costa achieve his dream move back to Madrid.
Will Conte Regret his Actions?
The saga surrounding Costa has been bizarre, with the striker deemed surplus to requirements despite scoring 20 league goals in 35 appearances as the Blues secured the title in Conte’s first season as manager. The issue first emerged last January, when Costa was linked to a move to China amid concerns over his fitness and dedication to the club.
Although a deal did not materialise, this seemed to fracture the relationship between the player and his manager, with the Italian famously discarding his striker by text at the end of last season.
While the relationship is almost certainly beyond repair, the question that remains is whether Conte will rue his conduct towards Costa. Deeming an experienced and proven forward surplus to requirements so soon after the season ended appeared reckless at best, particular with the Blues already short of alternative number -nines.
The subsequent signing of Alvaro Morata has done little to assuage the issue, as Chelsea continue to lack a strong and powerful centre-forward who can retain possession and link play.
Morata’s disappointing display during the 2-1 win against Tottenham at Wembley reaffirmed this, as while the Blues secured an impressive win they were constantly subjected to heavy pressure from Spurs due to their inability to retain the ball. Morata was too easily dominated by Tottenham’s powerful centre-halves, and Chelsea would have greatly benefited from Costa’s presence.
This is a trend that could well be repeated during other away games this season, during which the Blues will need to find alternative ways of playing if they are to be successful.
Time will tell for Conte, but Chelsea need options in attack
On a fundamental level, the Blues need further options and number in attack, particularly as they look to compete in both the Premier League and the Champions League this season.
In this respect, discarding a player who is capable of scoring 20 or more goals each season seems detrimental to the team, regardless of how difficult he can be to manage within the group.
Only time will tell whether Conte made an inspired managerial decision by axing Costa, or simply allowed ego and impulse to weaken his squad at a time when Chelsea are looking to build on last years’ success.
Rafa Benitez should plot Fernando Torres reunion at Newcastle United
Rafa Benitez should plot a reunion with his former superstar.
Newcastle United are reportedly in the market for new forwards this summer, with Rafa Benitez identifying the Magpies’ attacking output as a key weakness last term, despite their impressive 10th place finish.
The Spaniard is calling for the club to back him in pursuit of a “10 to 15 goals a season” striker this summer, with the likes of Salomon Rondon (Northern Echo) and Bas Dost (Marca) circulating around the Newcastle rumour mill.
However, both would likely break the Magpies current club-record of £16 million – for Michael Owen from Real Madrid in 2005 – and perhaps Benitez would be better served going for a former favourite.
Fernando Torres is a free-agent having left Atletico Madrid, following last month’s Europa League triumph and Newcastle should offer the 34-year-old a route back to England’s top flight this summer.
Under Benitez’s tutelage at Liverpool, Torres was widely recognised as one of the most formidable forwards in world football, and though his impact has diminished over the years, there’s no doubting the World Cup winner’s quality in front of goal.
The prospect of an elite level striker arriving at St James’ Park on a free transfer is a no brainier if the player can be convinced and the club should make it happen.
He knows the league inside-out, having made 212 appearances for Chelsea – where he won the Champions League – and with Benitez at Anfield, and he could instantly propel Newcastle’s attack to higher levels.
Becoming a crucial part of a new project on Tyneside would be enticing for Torres, as his unwavering desire and tenacity on a football pitch is something that cannot be questioned. He doesn’t seem the type to move to the States or China in pursuit of one last pay-cheque.
He has all the attributes to become a cult-hero at Newcastle, and the club should act now.
Will Liverpool regret missing out on Thomas Lemar last summer as Atletico agree deal?
Liverpool’s long-spanning target is set for a move to Spain.
Atletico Madrid are said to have agreed a deal with Monaco to sign French winger Thomas Lemar this summer, according to a statement from the official club website, which will leave a number of Premier League sides feeling disappointed.
The 22-year-old is currently away on international duty ahead of the World Cup, but both clubs are reportedly keen on finalising the transfer before then, according to Sky Sports.
The news will come as a blow to Liverpool, who have closely courted the player for a number of years – notably throughout last season – with reports from the Independent suggesting Lemar had chosen a move to Merseyside over Arsenal in January.
Jurgen Klopp reportedly made a £55 million bid for the player’s services last summer, but Monaco were unwilling to lose more key members of the team, having already lost Tiemoue Bakayoko to Chelsea, Benjamin Mendy to Manchester City and Kylian Mbappe to Paris Saint-Germain. That meant Lemar and new Reds midfielder Fabinho had to remain at the Stade Louis II for an extra season.
The Reds were expected to revisit their interest in Lemar this summer after the collapse of Nabil Fekir’s highly anticipated switch, as Klopp looks to bolster his attacking options having been reminded that squad depth is a powerful thing in the Champions League final.
Rumours surrounding the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri (Mirror) and Ousmane Dembele (Mirror) suggest Liverpool are still prioritising bringing in high-profile attackers and Lemar certainly belongs in that bracket.
His best return came a year ago, with the former Caen forward amassing an impressive 14 goals and 17 assists in all competitions, sparking the initial interest from Europe’s elite.
A year on, the Europa League champions appear to have won the race, and Liverpool will have to look elsewhere.
Newcastle should break club record for Atletico Madrid’s Kevin Gameiro
Newcastle United should break the bank for a marquee striker this summer.
Atletico Madrid striker Kevin Gameiro is looking increasingly likely to leave the Europa League champions this summer, in search of regular game-time, according to reports from Mundo Deportivo.
The French international has spent two seasons in the Spanish capital, but managed as few as 11 La Liga starts this term, often resigned to the bench in favour of the likes of superstar forward Antoine Griezmann and ex-Chelsea talisman Diego Costa.
Newcastle United are reportedly in the market for new forwards this summer, according to the Northern Echo, with Rafa Benitez identifying the Magpies’ attacking output as a key weakness last term, despite their impressive 10th place finish. And they should consider breaking the bank for Gameiro.
The Magpies have not broken their club transfer record for 13 years after buying Michael Owen from Real Madrid for £16m in 2005, but Benitez thinks that will have to change if they want a “10 or 15 goals a season” striker to lead the line.
And Gameiro would represent a serious marquee signing at St James’ Park, giving fans something to get really excited about for the first time in a while. And given a first team spot he would almost certainly best the numbers mentioned by the Spanish boss.
The club will have to seriously back the move, with the Spanish giants asserting that the 31-year-old will not be sold for any less than the £28 million they paid Sevilla in 2016.
He would be worth breaking the bank for though, as he has proved himself at the highest level for the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Sevilla and Lorient – winning an impressive four Europa League titles – while making 13 appearances for the national side since 2010.
Rumours surrounding the likes of Salomon Rondon (Northern Echo) are underwhelming for supporters, as the 28-year-old has failed to bag more than 10 goals in a domestic season, and it’s time to make a serious statement of intent.