Back in the distant past of last week when Jose Mourinho was still Chelsea manager his misfiring centre-forward Diego Costa opened the door to a possible return to Atletico Madrid - the Spanish club immediately asked him to close it.
Speaking to Onda Cero after Chelsea had beaten Porto to secure qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League Costa was told by one reporter: “Atletico Madrid supporters think you are going to come back” and the Chelsea striker replied: “You never know. Life has many turns. Look where Felipe Luis is now. I always support them.”
As well as hinting at some of the dressing room betrayal that Mourinho believes was behind his downfall - that and signing Radamel Falcao and selling Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku - it also gave Atletico Madrid the perfect chance to respond.
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The following day Atletico’s president Enrique Cerezo was asked: “What do you think about Costa leaving the door open for a return?” His mischeivoius reply was: “Close it, it’s letting the cold in.”
Costa would love to go back to the Spanish capital. He has never really settled in London. There is friction with certain players in the Chelsea dressing room over the perceived privileges that he enjoys and over his complete failure to learn or attempt to speak English. And his most recent crime against team spirit came when he appeared to accuse Chelsea defenders of being half asleep during the defeat to Leicester.
He has more contact via text and telephone with members of the Atletico Madrid dressing room than he does with some of the players at Chelsea but although he is remembered fondly by those players and by coach Simeone the desire for him to return comes almost exclusively from him.

Atletico Madrid's Brazilian-born forward Diego da Silva Costa gestures during the UEFA Champions League first leg semi-final football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs Chelsea at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on April 22, 2014

Image credit: AFP

Cerezo’s line was supposed to be light-hearted but behind the good humour was the reality that Atletico are doing very nicely without him. They are coping. Just as they coped when Diego Forlan left, when Fernando Torres left, when Sergio Aguero left and when Radamel Falcao left.
And it isn’t just their ability to replace strikers that impresses. They lost David De Gea and replaced him with Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian was only on loan but stayed for three seasons and when he left he was replaced by Jan Oblak.
The 22-year-old Slovenian international has the best record of any keeper in Europe’s top leagues with just seven goals conceded so far this season. He gives added security to the almost impregnable defence in front of him and here too there is proof that Atletico can lose important figures and just carry on by moulding new players into established roles.
Joao Miranda looked like being a tough act to follow when he left for Inter but in came 20-year-old Jose Gimenez to play alongside his international team-mate Diego Godin and the team have not missed a beat in the transition. The only player they really missed in recent seasons was Felipe Luis and he came back after just one campaign away.

Barcelona's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (L) vies with Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan defender Jose Maria Gimenez during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs FC Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on September 12, 201

Image credit: AFP

Atletico play their final game before this season’s shortened winter break on Sunday away to Malaga – it’s one that unless the form book is put through the wood chipper before kick-off – they should win. Victory will leave them three points clear at the top and it’s not an advantage they look set to be giving up any time soon with a visit to local rivals and worst defence in the league Rayo Vallecano, and a home game against bottom club Levante on the horizon.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves lest we get on the wrong side of Diego Simeone’s whose one-game-at-a-time mantra was the soundtrack to the team’s unexpected league title win the season before last. It’s not a particularly Spanish phrase and it amused people at first – then it annoyed them as he seemed to use it to answer every question in every press conference. He finally stopped saying on the last day of the season after a draw against Barcelona won them the league.
Will they be celebrating again on the last day of the season? Barcelona and Real Madrid will make them scrap all the way but it already looks a distinct possibility.
One thing is guaranteed – they will already be making plans for next season making sure that whoever the next star turn that leaves is (probably the brilliant Antoine Griezmann) that they already have the replacement. They will keep looking forward not back at the past, and probably not back at Costa.
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