London (AFP) – Antonio Conte is “confident” Diego Costa will remain with Chelsea, even though talks over the striker’s future with the club will have to wait until the end of the season.
Last month saw Costa, Premier League leaders Chelsea’s leading scorer this season with 15 goals, linked to a lucrative move to the cash-rich Chinese Super League.
Nothing, however, came of the reported interest and now there are suggestions that Costa, whose current contract has more than two years to run, could extend his time with the Blues by signing a new deal.
Chelsea manager Conte said he was unaware of any contract discussions, adding he expected everything to be sorted out once the current campaign was over.
“I don’t know about this situation,” said Conte, speaking ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie away to Championship club Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“I think now it’s very important to be focused on the present and not to look so far forward. At the end of the season we will see the situation.”
Conte, asked if he was confident that 28-year-old Spain striker Costa would still be at Stamford Bridge next season, replied: “Yes, I’m confident. I repeat: now it’s important to keep the great concentration for the present.
“The present is tomorrow’s game against Wolverhampton. We must go in the next round, added Conte, who is set to rest David Luiz and Marcus Alonso.
Meanwhile Conte has challenged his side, eight points clear at the top of English football, to emulate the Chelsea team of 2009/10 by completing a Premier League and FA Cup double.
“Usually I like to win and I like to try to win with my team, every competition in every season,” the Italian said.
“We must have this winning mentality. When you are Chelsea’s coach or you are a Chelsea player, you must have this ambition to try to win every competition that you play.
“Tomorrow the game won’t be easy. Don’t forget Wolverhampton won against Liverpool away, won against Stoke away.
“We must pay great attention, because this team showed in the recent past that they have the possibility to beat great teams.
“I hope tomorrow the result will be different and Chelsea to go in the next round.”
David Luiz will be rested after playing while managing a knee injury sustained in December in a tackle which saw Sergio Aguero sent off for Manchester City. John Terry could take his place in the centre of defence.
Conte has been on the losing side against Wolves manager Paul Lambert when they were both players, although Conte was injured and watching from the sidelines when a Borussia Dortmund team featuring Lambert beat Juventus to win the 1996/97 Champions League final.
“This is one of the three finals that I lost,” Conte recalled. “We were favourites. I remember that they were the underdog before the game, but they won very well against us.
“He was a good player. I remember very well.
“Revenge is not a good word. Now we started a new career me and Lambert, as coaches.
“I wish for him the best for his career — after this game. For me it will be a great pleasure to shake his hand,” Conte added.