The Chelsea manager has suggested that any showdown talks he held with the unsettled striker in January were rather one-way in nature
Antonio Conte has hinted that he took a hard-line approach in dealing with Diego Costa when the striker was linked with a move to China in January.
Costa was dropped by Conte amid speculation the manager had become involved in a heated dispute between the striker and the club’s medical staff over the extent of an injury.
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The Spaniard was then tipped to be the subject of a major bid from Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian which could have seen him become one of the world’s highest-paid players.
Chelsea made clear that Costa was not for sale, however, and he returned to Conte’s team with a goal in the 2-0 victory over Hull City on January 22.
He has since played the full 90 minutes against both Liverpool and Arsenal and helped the Blues maintain a nine-point lead over second-place Tottenham at the top of the Premier League table.
Asked about the mini-crisis by Sky Sport Italia, Conte suggested that he made little in the way of concessions to Costa after their apparent falling out.
He said: “I was very clear with him and raised my voice, and the player understood. Now everything is perfect.”
One player with a rather less volatile personality is N’Golo Kante, who is on track to win his second consecutive English title after joining Chelsea from Leicester City in the summer.
Kante has been in outstanding form once again this season but though Conte is a huge fan of the Frenchman, he does not believe he is the finished product.
“Kante is extraordinary,” the former Juventus coach enthused. “He brings a lot of quantity, OK, but what quality too – even if he should improve in his build-up play.
“His first pass is always horizontal and he needs to make that vertical. I was just like him, so I do understand.
“He’s a really good lad, always helping his team-mates. He’s been a great buy, though he’s often tired by the time he gets to the goal. He’s still young and can improve.”
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Conte also reserved praise for Eden Hazard after the winger, who has returned to top form this season, scored a superb individual goal in the 3-1 victory over Arsenal.
“He has incredible talent and really balances the phases of the game,” Conte said of the Belgian.