football

Diego Costa cancels Atlético Madrid contract and leaves six months early


Diego Costa has rescinded his Atlético Madrid contract with immediate effect after asking the club to allow him to leave six months early. The striker, whose deal was due to expire next June and who was free to negotiate with other clubs from 1 January, cited personal reasons for wanting to depart. He has not informed Atlético of his destination but, according to the agreement reached, he will have to pay a penalty if he moves to a competitor in La Liga or the Champions League.

Costa told Atlético of his desire to leave over the weekend and did not attend training at Cerro del Espino on Monday or Tuesday. The club’s CEO, Miguel Ángel Gil Marín, spoke to the rest of the squad to explain the situation before a statement was released on Tuesday afternoon confirming his departure. His contract was worth around €8m a year.

“It has all happened very fast,” the coach, Diego Simeone, said. “The club have spoken to him about his needs and his personal reasons and have found a way to help him without that being detrimental to the club, all of which gives us peace of mind.”

The nature of those personal issues have not been revealed, and nor have Costa’s professional plans. He had slipped behind Luis Suárez as the first-choice striker but, although he is 32, he believes he can still compete at the highest level. AS reported he wants to continue playing in Europe. Atlético have made him a free agent, able to join whoever he wants, but a fee understood to be €15m would be payable should he join a direct competitor.

“We want to help Diego and not damage our competitiveness,” Simeone said. “As always, the people at the club who have worked on the agreement for his departure took that into consideration.”

Costa first signed for Atlético at the age of 17. He scored in the Copa del Rey final as Atlético took the trophy at the home of their rivals Real Madrid in 2013 and was top scorer with 36 goals in all competitions as they won the league title and reached the Champions League final in 2014. He was in his second spell and then joined Chelsea that same summer.

After winning two Premier League titles, Costa forced an exit from Chelsea and returned to Atlético in September 2017 although he was unable to play until January 2018 because of the club’s transfer ban.

His return came at Simeone’s request; few players have been as close to the coach and the only replacement for Costa, it seemed, was Costa himself. Yet despite being part of the team that won the 2018 Europa League, a series of injuries – including an operation on his foot and back and most recently thrombosis – have limited his impact. He has played 81 games and scored 19 goals over the past three and a half seasons. He has scored twice in seven matches this season, most recently as a substitute against Elche having returned to fitness just before Christmas.

Suárez got two goals that day and Costa joked: “When I was out, he didn’t score, the bastard. I come back and he gets two.” He insisted the pair got on well and talked after the game about Atlético’s desire to do “something big”, “like when we won the league”, and the need for a large squad in which everyone played their part, himself included. Something, though, has changed and a week and a half later he has gone.

“You know how much we love Diego,” Simeone told a press conference on Tuesday. “We have been together for a long time and always [got on] in the best way. We gave each other a lot and we have spoken. He needs to find new challenges because he’s in good shape, strong. I can’t imagine any scenario other than one in which he gives his best because he’s a fighter.

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“We’re grateful to him as we are to all those people who gave us their heart, which Diego did both as a professional and a person. I hope he finds the best path and that one day we can see each other again – we haven’t seen each other for a couple of days because he was negotiating [with the club] – and we can hug each other and celebrate and remember.”

Atlético’s manager also spoke about the other absentee from the last two sessions, the England full-back Kieran Trippier, who has been handed a 10-week ban by the FA for breaking regulations on gambling. “The Trippier issue hurts us. In my view, it is unfair,” he said.

“Atlético Madrid have nothing to do with this situation but it has a detrimental effect on us. We hope this can be reviewed. [This judgment] has no benefit for Atlético but it does for the English FA; hopefully they can look again and understand the benefit handed to one [body] is taken from another [club] which has nothing to do with it.”



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