Belfast Telegraph

Antonio Conte says "money isn't everything" as Diego Costa speculation grows

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has insisted "money is not everything" as speculation mounts that star striker Diego Costa could be poised for a lucrative move to China.

The Italian feels playing for the Blues in the Premier League is rewarding enough, with reports circulating that the Brazil-born forward may follow Oscar in moving from Stamford Bridge to the Far East.

The striker was left out of Saturday's 3-0 win at Leicester after reportedly falling out with Conte - something the Italian denied.

Conte said Costa suffered a back injury on Tuesday but does not know when the 28-year-old will return.

Chelsea sold Oscar to Shanghai SIPG this month, while former Manchester United and Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez moved from Boca Juniors to Shanghai Shenhua on a reported £615,000 a week.

Chinese Super League clubs are prepared to pay enormous wages and bonuses to players but Conte said playing in the Premier League, and especially at Chelsea, should be enough.

He said: "The money is not everything. When you play for a great team like Chelsea, you must be pleased. This league is really competitive. I think that this league can attract every player because this league is the first in the world for a lot of positive things.

"For this reason, I repeat these offers from China are not a threat for our league. Money is not everything.

"I have to look at the past, also in my squad. Oscar played with us, had a good offer from China, he went and I can see that threat for my players.

"But I think we're a great club and it's a great honour to play for Chelsea and for this reason I don't see a threat for my players."

The Blues remain well placed at the top of the Premier League with a comfortable victory after two goals from Marcos Alonso and another from Pedro.

Willian replaced Costa and played in a front three with Pedro and Eden Hazard as the leaders made light work of the striker's absence.

"It was a good performance, a good reaction because when you win 13 games in a row and then you suffer a defeat it's not easy," said Conte.

"I know this from when I was a footballer, I understand this, the psychological aspect is very important. But we started very well in the FA Cup, now (we faced) a good team in the league, a very tough opponent with good players, a good manager and to come here and to win is not easy so I am very pleased."

Defeat left defending champions Leicester five points above the relegation zone and boss Claudio Ranieri still believes the title race is wide open, but does not include the Foxes.

He added: "We expected something after (Chelsea's) defeat against Tottenham. I don't know who will win the league because there are four or five teams fighting for the title. It's not our problem now."

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