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‘One step behind’, Diego Costa forces Chelsea to step up striker search

costaChelsea won their UEFA Champions League group stage game against Maccabi Tel Aviv by a comfortable 4-0 margin. But there was nothing confortable about Diego Costa’s half-time tunnel bust-up with manager Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho and Costa were in a heated exchange over the latter’s lack of movement and anticipation on the pitch. Of course, Mourinho was quick to downplay the incident and take the sting out of the altercation after the match.

“With Diego I wanted him to do a certain movement that he didn’t and I was disappointed and reacted and he reacted too, but at half-time in the dressing room there were a few kisses and cuddles,” said Mourinho.

Whatever Mourinho meant by “kisses and cuddles” is lost on outsiders and neutrals. The rift between the Chelsea forward and his manager are increasingly spilling out into the public. Just last Saturday, Mourinho and Costa were involved in a verbal spat after the striker failed to anticipate a Eden Hazard pass that would have given him a tap in for a goal.

Bad boy

And it’s not like Costa has the best temperament on the planet. He has been retrospectively banned twice for violence on the pitch since February, and those long-term absences have only hurt Chelsea’s chances of defending their Premier League title this season. It shows, too: Chelsea are 15th on the table, and Costa, an integral member of last season’s title-winning squad, is a peripheral influence, if at all.

Mourinho, however, has been quick to defend his man, heaping insults instead on the referees and Chelsea’s opponents, accusing them of double standards. He also believes he doesn’t need to go shopping for players once the year ends, publicly stating he will not ask the board for funds to buy players in the January transfer window.

However, the board could well choose to bypass the manager given the myriad problems the club will have in the short-term future.

No superstar imports

Chelsea will most likely be unable to bring the coveted Antoine Greizmann from Atletico Madrid, or even Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli in the January window, which rarely sees top players being put on the market.

And depending on Radamel Falcao’s recent form, both at Manchester United as well as at Stamford Bridge, will not yield Chelsea any results.

Loic Remy, too, may take some off for the birth of his child.

Who, then?

The transfer department will look at long-term replacements who can eventually be moulded into the Mourinho/Chelsea philosophy. Of course, all top clubs are monitoring Saido Berahino, but the West Brom striker, in all probability, will not make the move to London.

The other option could be Jamie Vardy. But it would be foolish to assume league leaders Leicester City will part with their star player and talisman.

Other avenues for Chelsea to bolster their attack could lead to free agent Emmanuel Adebayor, who worked under Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, or even Robin van Persie, but the former Arsenal and Manchester United striker hasn’t inspired much confidence at Turkish club Fenerbahce.

That leaves Jose Mourinho, after going around in circles, hoping that Diego Costa recovers his desire and his form, and revive Chelsea’s campaign.

But if Costa continues with his sulking self, maybe it’s time for Mourinho to abandon the “kisses and cuddles” and deploy some tough love instead.

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