Chelsea striker Diego Costa’s future has been thrown into doubt after a furious row with Antonio Conte over his fitness.
The Spain forward has not travelled with the Premier League leaders for Saturday night’s match against champions Leicester. And the clash with manager Conte could now see him leave Stamford Bridge.
Costa, 28, believes he is suffering from a lower back problem, which could be linked to his history of hamstring injuries.
He wanted to rest this week but Chelsea expected him to train as part of Conte’s strict fitness regime.
This sparked a series of blazing arguments, as exclusively revealed by MailOnline, with Conte backing his medical team and leaving Costa flabbergasted.
Representatives of Costa are in China. Oscar and John Mikel Obi have already quit Chelsea for mega-money deals there in recent weeks.
The disagreement has led to a rift between Costa, Conte and the Chelsea physios. The striker does not agree with their methods and has pointed to his impressive record this season, when he has scored 14 league goals.
Chelsea had planned to offer Costa a new contract but that is now in significant doubt, although the forward is prone to such fallings-out and the club hope the matter can be resolved.
Chelsea medical staff have been cautious with Costa, taking extra precautions this season to ensure his hamstring issues do not flare up.
Costa has responded by being Chelsea’s most influential player, but the issue could now wreck the club’s push for the title.
And Sky Italia reported on Friday that Conte had shouted at Costa, ‘Go to China’, during their heated exchange. As news broke of the row, Costa uploaded a picture of him scoring against Tottenham on Instagram, with the caption: ‘Come on Chelsea!!!’
Conte remains unconvinced by Costa’s £33m understudy Michy Batshuayi and is in the market for a striker this month, with Swansea’s Fernando Llorente a target.
Liverpool legend and Sky pundit Graeme Souness insisted that Chelsea must find a solution to get Costa back onside, or risk throwing away the title.
He said: ‘You have to sit down with him and you have to find common ground. You cannot have him sit there and not play for the rest of the season. West Ham are talking about that with Dimitri Payet but I don’t think Chelsea can afford to do that.
‘If I was Conte I would be saying, “We’ve got to resolve this, we’ve got to get him back playing like he has been for the previous six months”.
‘They’d be losing their biggest threat. He gets them goals — that’s the hardest thing in football. He’s a warrior and he makes people play. He is the biggest loss Chelsea could have . . . they cannot afford that