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Top takeaways from Diego Costa’s incredible rant

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Diego Costa didn’t hold back in an interview with the Daily Mail who traveled to Brazil to track him down.

[ MORE: Ronaldo gets five-game ban ]

Currently hanging out at his family home in Lagarto in the north east of the country, Costa was watching Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat to Burnley on the opening day of the season sat on the sofa while family members would glance into the room and shake their heads in disbelief.

Costa, 28, made plenty of things clear in the outrageous interview as he aimed to set the record straight, stating he has already been fined several weeks wages by Chelsea, that he couldn’t believe Antonio Conte text him saying he was no longer needed at the club and he also made it clear he wants to rejoin his former club Atletico Madrid.

What did we actually learn from Costa’s side of the story?

Below are the main takeaways from what he said as his future at Chelsea appears to be over, at least while Conte is boss, which may not be for much longer if the Blues continue their poor form throughout preseason and to start the Premier League season…


Costa almost signed a new Chelsea deal in January before he was left out of the squad for a game at Leicester following a training ground incident

“In January, things happened with the coach. I was on the brink of renewing my contract and they put the brakes on it. I suspect the manager was behind it. He asked for that to happen.”

Although Conte seems to be adored universally, Costa says that’s far from the case with Chelsea’s squad

“His ideas are very fixed and clear. I have seen the sort of person he is. He has his own opinion and that will not change. I respect him as a great coach. He has done a good job and I can see that, but as a person, no. He is not a coach who is very close with his players. He is very distant. He doesn’t possess charisma.”

Costa is holding out for a move to Atletico Madrid, who are banned from signing new players until January 2018, but Chelsea want to sell him to the Chinese Super League. His lawyer is also talking about taking action against Conte’s “discriminatory behavior” 

“Why won’t they let me go if they don’t want me? I have to do what I have to do. I have to think of myself. I’ve been a good boy here and tried to do the right thing. My desire is to go to Atletico [Madrid]. I’ve spoken to Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia. I said, ‘If the manager doesn’t want me, I want to go to Atletico Madrid.’ I have rejected other offers.

“They want to sell me to China or other teams. The language is better for me in Spain. If I’m off, I’m going to the club I want to go to — not the club that’s paying the most. Diego Simeone wants me. It is very clear. I have always had a bond with him. The fans and people love me there. They respect me.”

As far as Costa is concerned he has no future at Chelsea, plus he also claims his teammates send him messages of support

“I am waiting for Chelsea to set me free. I didn’t want to leave. I was happy. When the manager does not want you, you have to go. If you were to ask all my team-mates, they’d say the same. They send messages saying ‘I miss you’ and that they love me. I am always talking with the boys — particularly Cesc Fabregas, David Luiz and Willian. We have banter over WhatsApp. They ask how I am. They really love me for the person I am. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be saying they miss me and love me.”

If a move to Atletico doesn’t materialize, Costa is fine with staying in Brazil for a year

“If I have to I will stay in Brazil. I am open to being a year in Brazil without playing, even if Chelsea fine me for a year and don’t pay me. I’ll come back stronger. If I was in the wrong, I’d go back now and do as they say. At the start of summer, they gave me an extra week of holiday. Then a week later they called to see where I was but by then the team was in Asia on tour, so I could go back and not have any contact with the boys.

“That seems a very bad and ugly life. It doesn’t respect what I have done for the club. I am here with people who love me. I want the fans to know I still care deeply about them but I’m not going back to be separated like that. I want the deal with Atletico resolved this month. My idea would be to go to Madrid, train there, get in the best physical shape and be ready to fire ahead of the World Cup.”

Costa will continue to be fined by Chelsea for staying in Brazil and training there on his own instead of with Chelsea’s reserves, but that’s what he intends to do unless the situation changes

“They want me to be there training with the reserves. I wouldn’t be allowed access to the first-team dressing room and I would have no contact at all with the guys. I’m not a criminal. I don’t think it is fair after all I have done to be treated like that. They gave me a week extra off but since then it’s fines all the way. They want me training with the reserves. I am not going to do that. I am not a criminal and I am not in the wrong here. So, if they need to fine me, let them fine me. I take the hit every week but I’m not driven by money. The important thing is to be happy with how I live.”

Liverpool issue injury update on Sadio Mane

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has issued a positive injury update on Sadio Mane but he is still expected to miss the next two Premier League games.

Mane, 27, injured his hamstring against Wolverhampton Wanderers last week and Liverpool feared the worse but the Senegalese winger hasn’t completely torn a muscle.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s trip to West Ham to Wednesday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Klopp confirmed Mane will be out against West Ham and is probably going to miss the home clash with Southampton on Saturday.

“Sadio will not be involved for West Ham and probably not for Southampton,” Klopp said. “After that he should be then fine. The week we have then after that is for him perfect to get back on track. He has a small muscle tear, which is serious enough to keep him out. We were lucky with the injury as well, so it was not that serious. But of course, when you have three games in a week then that means he is out for these three games.”

Overall, this is good news for Liverpool. Mane has been superb this season and is Liverpool’s leading goalscorer, coming up big so often in tight victories.

With the Reds 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with 15 games to go they have the ability to rest Mane and give him as much time as possible.

Klopp has already revealed he will not play his first team in the FA Cup fourth round replay against Shrewsbury Town and he will not be there himself (Neil Critchley will manage the U23 side in the game) as the squad has a week off during the mid-season player break.

Mane will be back in mid-February and that is a much better diagnosis than most Liverpool fans were expecting.

USMNT looks toward Olympic qualifying

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NEW YORK (AP) USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter will be looking toward Olympic soccer qualifying when the senior national team plays Costa Rica on Saturday in an exhibition at Carson, California.

Thirteen of the 22 players on the American roster are eligible for Olympic qualifying, which is limited to players under 23. The U.S. men failed to reach the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and they are in a difficult qualifying group that includes Mexico and Costa Rica.

“It’ll be nice to give them an opportunity to perform in front of a crowd in a real international game,” Berhalter said during a telephone conference call on Monday.

Twelve players have no previous international experience. The U.S. has used 74 players in 30 matches since the 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances, and 36 players have made debuts: 24 under interim coach Dave Sarachan and 12 under Berhalter, who was hired in December 2018.

“We think this age group is talented for the Olympic age group and we’re excited to see how they navigate through the qualification process and then eventually build the group for the Olympics” Berhalter said.

Olympic qualifying runs from March 20-30 and the U.S. will be coached by Jason Kreis. Since clubs are not required to release players to under-23 teams, top Americans Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest are not likely to be available. Major League Soccer starts Feb. 29, and its coaches may be reluctant to provide players.

“We’re going to need a lot of cooperation from Major League Soccer, and I know that’s difficult given the early stage of their season,” Berhalter said.

If the U.S. does qualify for the Olympics, it would be able to add three players over the age limit. But clubs could decline to release players.

“It would be nice to field our strongest team in the Olympics. We’re just not sure that’s going to happen,” Berhalter said.

Veterans on the roster this weekend include forwards Gyasi Zardes and Paul Arriola, defender Aaron Long and midfielder Sebastian Lletget. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid could make his first appearance since a June 2018 exhibition at Ireland.

On other topics:

-Berhalter did not sound overly concerned about Pulisic’s adductor injury. The Chelsea midfielder has not played since Jan. 1 and is not likely to return until Feb. 17 at the earliest. “He played a lot of games in a short period of time over Christmas,” Berhalter said. “He’s a young player playing at an extremely competitive level and it takes a physical toll on your body. And him coming to terms with that is something that’s normal for the process of adapting.”

-On the best position for Adams, who has appeared at right back and right wing for RB Leipzig: “We see him primarily as a central midfielder. We always have seen him as a central midfielder. But we know that when we when we need to be flexible, he can play that position, as well. We think right now the right back position is filled with depth, and he’ll be most suited in our system in central midfield.”

-On the possibility of Long transferring from the New York Red Bulls to West Ham: “It obviously could be a potential big change in where he’s competing and what level he’s playing at. … That would be a step up for him.”

-Jesus Ferreira, a Colombian-born forward who received U.S. citizenship last month, may not be eligible to play this weekend pending the completion of paperwork.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tottenham sign Lo Celso, close in on Bergwijn

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Tottenham Hotspur have signed Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis, triggering a clause which turns his loan into a permanent transfer for $35.3 million.

Lo Celso, 23, arrived on loan this summer and after injuries disrupted his first few months in England he has settled in very nicely in recent weeks with a surging run to set up Heung-Min Son to score at Southampton at the weekend showcasing his ability.

The Argentine playmaker has signed a contact through 2025 and is the direct replacement for Christian Eriksen who is Inter Milan bound.

Spurs are also closing in on a deal for Steven Bergwijn as PSV Eindhoven left the winger out of training and he has flown to London for a medical.

Bergwijn, 22, is a rising star in the Dutch Eredivisie and according to our partners at Sky Sports he will join Tottenham for $32.5 million, rising to $35 million with add-ons.

With Christian Eriksen’s move to Inter Milan completed on Tuesday, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has brought in a younger, promising attacking player to help freshen up the attack alongside Lo Celso.

Tottenham have got their dominoes in order and now they are falling.

Bergwijn is highly-rated and scored 16 goals in a struggling PSV side last season and has six goals to his name in 29 appearances in all competitions so far in 2019-20. He has recently broken into the Dutch national team and is regarded as one of the top young wing talents in Europe.

This is exactly the kind of transfer Spurs need to be making. Mourinho loves to have tricky and direct wingers in his teams to feed off a central striker and Bergwijn is on the up and is hungry to prove himself in England. It makes total sense with Eriksen on his way out for about $22 million, so it could be yet another shrewd bit of business from Levy and Co.

Aside from Bergwijn there is a push for a striker to arrive on a short-term deal with Harry Kane out injured until April, but given the form of Heung-min Son, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli in attack, perhaps Mourinho and Levy will resist the urge to bring in a short-term solution up top.

Krzysztof Piatek, Willian Jose, Edinson Cavani and many others have been mentioned as potential stop gaps for Kane but the fluid movement of Son, Moura and Alli could be the way to go in attack. With Bergwijn added to the mix alongside the January loan addition of midfielder Gedson Fernandes, Spurs are getting younger and things have been freshened up quite nicely by Mourinho.

All things considered, not a bad window for Spurs, as they sit six points off the top four with 14 games to go and are still in the FA Cup and now have a plan without Kane for the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds and the final months of the season.

Solskjaer coy on Man United transfers; Alexis to return

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was coy when asked about possible transfer for Manchester United in the final days of the January window and revealed that Alexis Sanchez will return this summer.

Speaking ahead of their League Cup semifinal second leg against rivals Man City on Wednesday (City lead 3-1 from the first leg), Solskjaer was asked about a possible deal for Bruno Fernandes and if United will do any other business before the window shuts on Friday.

“I haven’t got any updates for you on transfers, I think it was a wasted question,” Solskjaer told a reporter. “I haven’t got anything to say now.”

Pushed further about what type of players United could sign, Solskjaer was asked if the club are now ‘thinking outside of the box’ amid reports they could sign strikers Odion Ighalo and Islam Slimani.

Solskjaer bemoaned the January window and how difficult it is to do business and shocked everyone as he revealed that Sanchez will be welcomed back with open arms in the summer when his loan with Inter Milan ends.

“Well, we’ve got players here we are working hard to get back and if there is something out there then the club are pursuing that and looking at it. Of course, it is the difficult window, it has always been,” Solskjaer said. “I can’t remember how many good ‘uns or deals we’ve brought in January. Henrik [Larsson] was good, Nemanja [Vidic] and Patrice [Evra] were two good ones. Henrik as a loan. Alexis… It is hard because some of the clubs don’t want to lose their players. Alexis will come back in the summer and prove you all wrong.”

“At the moment it doesn’t look like it, no,” Solskjaer added when asked about outgoings, while he added that Nemanja Matic may not be fit for the League Cup semifinal at Man City and Marcos Rojo is very unlikely to be sold.

It seems likely that United will not do any business in the final days of the window as Solskjaer looked frustrated but put on a brave face.

United are said to be $26 million short of matching Sporting Lisbon’s valuation of Fernandes and even though the Portuguese playmaker would make a big difference for them in the final months of the Premier League season, it seems unlikely the player they’ve chased since last summer will arrive at Old Trafford.

This news will no doubt be frustrating for United but given Mason Greenwood‘s recent displays, perhaps Solskjaer will place extra faith in the 18-year-old to fill the void left by Marcus Rashford over the next six weeks or so. It is either that or bring in a more experienced striker on loan for the rest of the season and that doesn’t seem to slot in with United’s new philosophy of developing young British talent.