Last season’s abysmal display by The Blues that saw them finish tenth helped fuel rumours of their top striker, Diego Costa wanting out. Luckily for Chelsea, Conte’s appointment bought enough time to convince the 28-year old that he could have his entire dream come through right there at the Stamford Bridge.
The first half of the season saw Chelsea run rampant, winning 11 games on the bounce and opening a huge gap between them and the rest of the league. Costa was at the heart of such run of form, discovering the scoring instincts that went blunt last season. The Spaniard scored 20 goals in the Premier League by January and even if that might look meagre by his standards, he very much made up for what he lack in goals by being at his nuisance best, tirelessly provoking opposition defenders in a bid to get them walked up and bag a red card.
At one point (just before Christmas) he was the favourite to end the season as the Top Scorer on the BetVictor website, though his formed tailed off as the season progressed.
Then came the bizarre news of his leaving Stamford Bridge – bizarre not for the reality of him leaving the London club but the rumoured destination. In keeping him out of the line up after the incident Conte may well have added credence to the news of the Spaniard asking for a move to China. Although they got past it and still went on to win the league, that episode added another validation to the acclaimed difficulty of working with the Spaniard.
From picking up unnecessary yellow cards to deeming it fit to be at the centre of every spat, Costa, although talented, has shown that Chelsea cannot put all their eggs in the basket of his shoulders. The Blues must look for a more stable human being to lead their attack, which is why it makes complete sense for Conte to tell Costa that his days are numbered. Talent is not everything – having the right mentality can get you an extra 25%.
One of the players rumoured to be joining in his place (and set to become the fulcrum of the Chelsea attack) is Romelu Lukaku. The Everton striker has refused to reveal future plans to the media seeks to know where his hearts lies, but has confirmed that he is 99% sure of where he will end up. The Belgium international, who is on international duty, has not agreed a new deal with the Toffees and he is almost certainly on his way.
There are reports he could move back to Chelsea to join Antonio Conte as they play in the Champions League next season. He told the press that he has made a decision and that his agent knows about it, but he remained tight-lipped to the correspondents.
Lukaku rejected an offer in March as he sought continental glory. Everton are set to play in the Europa League but there are no guarantees that they would even go far if they make it. Coach Ronaldo Koeman had advised him to remain at Goodison Park as he as a manager is also ambitious.
Lukaku was set to win the Golden boot award in the Premier League but Spurs star Harry Kane beat him to in in the last games. His 25 goals were important as Everton finished seventh in the league. Lukaku could replace Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge next season as the Blues challenge for the Champions League, while hoping to retain the league title they won.
Lukaku is expected to lead the Belgium side as they face Estonia in a World Cup qualifier on Friday. His team-mate Chelsea star Eden Hazard might not be available after he twisted his ankle in a friendly game against Czech Rep. Hazard is expected back this preseason for Chelsea as they prepare for their Premier League defence.