22 Aug Keep your eye on the ball Diego
Antonio Conte has told Diego Costa to keep his focus purely on football as the Chelsea striker continues to enjoy a fine start to the campaign.
The Spain international scored an 87th-minute winner as the Blues came from behind to win 2-1 at Watford on Saturday – having also hit the decider late on in Monday’s defeat of West Ham.
Costa, 27, endured a poor season last year as Chelsea relinquished their Premier League crown with a whimper, and he was linked with a move back to Atletico Madrid during the summer.
A series of controversies has followed his arrival at Chelsea in 2014, and Costa is often the pantomime villain wherever the Blues are playing – he was jeered as his name was read out ahead of the clash at Vicarage Road.
But Conte has spoken to the player about blocking out all of the noise that surrounds him and to remain focused on helping Chelsea deliver on the pitch as he followed up Michy Batshuayi’s first goal for the club to strike the winner against the Hornets.
“Diego must be focused on the game,” Conte said.
“I don’t want him to focus on other players, other managers or the press or people that talk badly about him. He must just stay very focused on the game.
“For me, the game – performance – is the most important thing. The others are only ‘blah, blah, blah’. It’s important to pay attention during the game because he is an important player and he can score a lot of goals.
“So I want him to put himself in the game, not to think of other situations. It is not good for me, it’s not good for him and it’s not good for Chelsea or the fans.
“I try to speak with all my players and with all the players. It’s important to have these revelations. But I prefer to keep with me what I say.”
Conte was once again animated on the touchline as Chelsea staged their comeback following Etienne Capoue’s strike for Watford, with Batshuayi scoring from the bench and another substitute, Cesc Fabregas, playing Costa in behind for the winner.
He entered the pitch at the final whistle and embraced every member of his squad – saying after that he knows when his players need either affection or castigation.
“I think that my experience, as a former player, helps me in this situation,” he said. “It helps me to understand when a player needs a hug and when a player needs a bit of pressure.
“I think also that its important to create the right feeling because me and my staff try to give them 110 per cent in our work every day and, for this reason, I also ask this of my players. But it’s important to create a good relationship.
“Also, I like always to tell the truth. Not a bad lie, always the truth. Bad or good but I prefer to tell the truth because when the football is finished and I face the player in other situations it is important to be able to look them in the eye.”