Just moments after Chelsea lost their opening Premier League match to Burnley in Saturday, exiled striker, Diego Costa, was got a surprise visit by Daily Mail reporters led by Adam Crafton of Sportsmail.
In fact, the team stormed Costa’s home while the match was still going on. Burnley was 3-0 up in the first half. Costa was watching the match at his family home in Largato, north-eastern Brazil.
After helping Chelsea to the Premier League title by scoring 20 goals in manager Antonio Conte’s first season at the club, Costa finds himself 5,000 miles from Stamford Bridge on the opening weekend of the new campaign.
Sportsmail said its reporters had arrived unannounced and uninvited but, standing on the doorstep of his childhood home, Chelsea outcast Costa puffs out his cheeks and shakes his head.
“It’s going well for Chelsea, isn’t it?’ he grimaces. ‘The red card changed the game but anyway, you’ve come a long way and I have nothing to hide. Come on in.’
They were greeted with smiles and handshakes from Costa’s parents, Jose de Jesus and Josileide, and a small entourage of family friends.
Perching himself on a chair in the garden, Costa smiles ruefully: ‘It’s been a strange summer.’ Strange is one word for it.
Costa’s summer began with a text message from Conte, informing him his Chelsea career was over. Diego Costa has not been at Chelsea since the FA Cup final in May and, during a half-hour conversation, the striker delivers a blistering retort.
He accuses Chelsea of treating him ‘like a criminal’ and refuses to rule out legal action. He says he will always keep Conte’s text message on his phone and claims the Chelsea manager ‘lacks charisma’. Costa also accuses Conte of blocking his contract negotiations in January.
Costa says he has been fined several weeks’ wages but is defying demands to return to train with the reserves. The Spain international insists he wants a transfer to Atletico Madrid resolved this month and that, meanwhile, he is ready to see out his Chelsea contract unpaid and train alone near his home in Brazil.
Lagarto, located 80 miles inkand from the coastal city of Aracaju, the capital of the Brazilian state of Sergipe, has just over 100,000 inhabitants and is known for its farms growing cassava and tobacco but Diego Costa is the biggest show in town.
During the interview, Costa said he was not expecting Conte to call him back after the disastrous start to the title defense.
His words: “You know that the manager doesn’t want me”
“I am waiting for Chelsea to set me free. I didn’t want to leave. I was happy. When the manager does not want you, you have to go.
“If you were to ask all my team-mates, they’d say the same. They send messages saying ‘I miss you’ and that they love me.
“I am always talking with the boys — particularly Cesc Fabregas, David Luiz and Willian. We have banter over WhatsApp.
“They ask how I am. They really love me for the person I am. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be saying they miss me and love me.”
So Diego, where did it all go wrong? ‘I cannot speak for other people, only for myself. I had a great season. I fought in every game until the last moment.’
It was not always a rose-tinted picture at Stamford Bridge. In January, Sportsmail revealed that Costa had been embroiled in a training-ground row with fitness coach Julio Tous.
Conte attributed Costa’s absence from the next match at Leicester to a niggling back problem. “No, no, no”, Costa insists. “That was a punishment for the attitude I had shown and for not behaving in the best way”.
Then rumours of a move to China surfaced. It was smoothed over but tensions simmered. Costa had been close to agreeing a new deal at the club.
“In January, things happened with the coach. I was on the brink of renewing my contract and they put the brakes on it. I suspect the manager was behind it. He asked for that to happen.
“His ideas are very fixed and clear. I have seen the sort of person he is. He has his own opinion and that will not change.
“I respect him as a great coach. He has done a good job and I can see that, but as a person, no. He is not a coach who is very close with his players. He is very distant. He doesn’t possess charisma”
The mention of the word charisma, made the reporter mention Mourinho to Costa who smiled warmly: “Jose has called me, direct to my phone, just to check I am OK and to see how I am.
“He wished me good luck. I never had any problems with Jose, we have a strong relationship. Everyone was very sad when things didn’t work out in the end for him at Chelsea.’
Costa continued: “What is happening now with Chelsea is sad. The text message — I understand it when a coach wants a different player.
“Alvaro Morata is a great player. He had a great season in Madrid and actually with the way this crazy transfer market is, I think they got a good price for a young and talented forward. He will triumph at Chelsea, but there are ways of going about it. You don’t do it by text message. You should be honest and direct to someone’s face.
“I was with the Spain national team, alone in my room, when it came through. It was a shock to get it like that. I was showing it to my team-mates and they could not believe how he had done it.
“I was angry at the time. Now I am more calm. I have not deleted the message. If people accuse me of lying, I can show them. It was clear, saying that he didn’t count on me and wishing me the best for the future. Full stop.’
Costa insists Conte did not raise the issue with him after the 2-1 FA Cup final defeat by Arsenal. “No, no, no. There was no conversation or talks. Conte has his mentality. He thinks it’s the best way of working.
“He arrived from an Italian league where everyone is very serious and arrived in a dressing room where there are maybe more jokes.
“The worst bit of all this, it is for the fans. They have always treated me so well — always, always. For this, I am sad. I hope they understand things happen in football.
“Conte is a great coach. He deserves to be where he is but it’s his opinion. He has his reasons.”