Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has warned Atletico Madrid to forget about re-signing Diego Costa and vowed to make the Spain centre-forward an integral part of his Stamford Bridge reign.
Atletico have been linked with a deal to take their former player back to the Vicente Calderon, with club president Enrique Cerezo quizzed on Tuesday about claims he said a transfer was “close”.
Talk of a return to Madrid was fuelled by a comparatively disappointing second year in London in which he scored just 12 Premier League goals – eight fewer than in his debut season.
But Conte has made clear that Costa is earmarked for a key role in his overhaul of a team that finished 10th in the top flight last term, and believes he can restore the 27-year-old to former glories.
“Diego is our player. He is a fantastic player, a player with a fundamental importance and there is no problem,” said Conte, who took charge earlier this month.
“He stays with us, he is working very hard, he is very happy to work with his team-mates and with me in the new idea of football. He is a Chelsea player.
“He is an important player, a very strong player, one of the best in the world, and I am sure when he goes into our ideas he will score a lot of goals for us.”
Costa, who cost the Blues £32m when signed by Jose Mourinho in 2014, is one of three strikers in Chelsea’s squad for the coming season, along with new £33m signing Michy Batshuayi and Loic Remy.
Tottenham close to Nkoulou signing
Tottenham, meanwhile, are close to a £11m deal for 21-year-old Marseille winger George-Kevin Nkoudou, who scored 10 goals in 36 games in a breakthrough campaign last season.
Uncertainty over the future of Clinton N’Jie could complicate the switch, however, with Marseille keen to replace Nkoudou with the Spurs forward but with the player thought to favour staying in north London.
Stoke confirm Berahino bids
Stoke manager Mark Hughes has confirmed his interest in signing former Tottenham target Saido Berahino from West Brom, amid reports of a club record £20m bid for the striker.
“We have put some bids in and as it stands those haven’t been accepted yet, but we’re still hopeful on them,” Hughes said.
Arsenal to sign Bolton youngster
Arsenal are believed to be close to finalising the £2m signing of Bolton’s England Under-21 defender Rob Holding.
Holding was named the club’s player of the year as they were relegated to League One.