(Reuters) - Chelsea striker Diego Costa has accused the club of pricing him out of a move back to Atletico Madrid in his continuing stand-off with manager Antonio Conte.
The Spanish international is determined to rejoin former side Atletico despite the La Liga club being subject to a transfer ban preventing them from registering players until January.
Costa has not played for Chelsea since the FA Cup final in May, following which he says Conte sent him a text telling him he was not in his plans for the new season. Chelsea say that was made clear to him as early as January.
He has accused the Premier League club of treating him like a “criminal” and has said he was willing to see out the remaining two years of his deal unpaid in Brazil.
“My destination is already set,” Costa was quoted as saying by Brazilian newspaper O Globo. “I must return to Atletico Madrid next season.”
Atletico are banned from signing players in this window as punishment for signing minors.
Costa has remained in Brazil and been fined by Chelsea for not returning to pre-season training.
In a later interview with ESPN Brasil he accused the club of demanding too high a fee for him.
“What I know is that this offer Chelsea will get is bigger than what they paid,” he said. Chelsea signed Costa from Atletico for 32 million pounds in July 2014.
“My agent said that Chelsea want something that Atletico can’t get near. Atletico is a team growing every year, a big team, but they can’t pay an extraordinary amount.
“I think they (Chelsea) should take into account everything that I’ve done. It’s not my fault that I’m not at the club. If it was down to me I’d be playing. It’s already been one month. Holidays are good but it gets tiresome.”
With less than two weeks until the transfer window closes, Costa is now concerned that he may have to consider other options.
“If Atletico and Chelsea don’t come to an agreement, I can’t keep on wanting to play for a club that isn’t going to make a bigger effort to try and sign me,” he said.
At a news conference on Friday ahead of Sunday’s Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur, Conte laughed when Costa’s interview was raised, particularly at the notion that the player felt treated like a criminal.
“Everyone who was at Chelsea knows very well what happened last season,” he said.
“I’m not interested to continue this issue. For me it is the past.”
A club spokesman emphasised, however, that “as a Chelsea player, he should return to Chelsea.”
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Steve Tongue. Editing by Peter Rutherford and Robin Pomeroy