Chelsea have taken the shock decision of including castaway striker Diego Costa in their Premier League squad.
Costa is currently holed up in his hometown of Lagarto in Brazil and refusing to return to Chelsea after a major fallout with manager Antonio Conte at the start of the summer.
Atletico Madrid were continuing to negotiate with Chelsea on Thursday as they sought to secure the transfer before the Spanish transfer window closed on Friday night.
However, several sources in Spain felt the deal appeared unlikely to go through in time. Atletico are under a transfer embargo until January and therefore Costa would be unable to play for Diego Simeone’s team until the turn of the year.
As such, Atletico do not see a rush to cut a deal but talks continue over a £45m transfer.
Elsewhere Southampton named wantaway centre back Virgil van Dijk in their 25-man list, despite his determination to leave the club in the summer after handing in a transfer request.
Philippe Coutinho made his way into Liverpool’s squad after failing to land his dream move to Barcelona. Ross Barkley is in Everton’s squad after rejecting a deadline day switch to Chelsea.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has repeatedly said this summer that Costa ‘is in the past’ so it is therefore surprising that the club have now registered the player in their 25-man squad for the Premier League.
It was unclear whether Costa would be named in the club’s Champions League squad, which was due to be announced at 11pm on Friday night.
Costa’s registration offers the hypothetical possibility of a shock lifeline but more realistically, it is the latest move by Chelsea amid a possible legal battle.
Costa alleged in an interview with Sportsmail that Conte ended his Chelsea career by text message, that the club are treating him ‘like a criminal’ and that he would be isolate from the squad and forced to train with the reserves if he returns.
Costa went on to threaten legal action if Chelsea do not allow him a return to Atletico. While the manager has been dismissive, the club have taken steps to calm the situation by encouraging Costa to return and get himself into the correct shape for first-team contention.
One line of thought is that Chelsea are seeking to protect themselves. Should Costa claim that Chelsea are not providing the conditions for him to fulfil the terms of his contract as a first-team professional, then the club can now state that he was registered in the official Premier League squad.
It also does not directly impact Antonio Conte’s plans as the Chelsea squad is thin on numbers and there was no need for a senior player to drop out to facilitate Costa’s position.
Atletico expect Costa to link up with them within the next fortnight but if the move does not go through on Friday night, the Spanish club want him to go to London and hold reconciliatory talks with Chelsea.
The Spanish club fear his attitude is causing Chelsea to stiffen their resolve and maintain a higher price. It remains to be seen whether Costa would relax in his position. Costa has preferred to be take fines and damage to his reputation than apologise for the situation so far, as he feels he has been wronged by Conte.
However, Atletico hope that he will put his pride to one side and see the need to smooth matters over for the sake of the transfer and his World Cup aspirations.
Meanwhile, Costa has been encouraged to return to fitness by Spain team-mate Sergio Ramos. Costa has missed the current round of international fixtures and asked if he would have liked to see the striker make more effort to be fit enough to participate in Real Madrid defender Ramos said: ‘I could say a thousand things on Diego Costa.
‘Every player plans his holidays and his life as he sees fit. I hope that if right now he has more time to rest then he can come back with the same attitude as ever.’