January 18, 2017

FREE KICKS: Go, Diego, Go to China?

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Just when you thought that everything was going a bit too smoothly for EPL-leading Chelsea, a club known for its never-ending internal drama, the Blues were found in turmoil once again.

After reports of a “blazing row” with manager Antonio Conte, Diego Costa didn’t make the trip to Leicester City for the Blues match against the defending champs. Apparently, the striker hadn’t trained in three days after receiving an offer from a Chinese team with a salary of $30 million per year attached.

Conte even reportedly told Costa to “Go to China!”

This was the sort of thing that we expected in past years, when Stamford Bridge was more akin to a three-ring circus. But under Conte, there seemed to be more cooler heads.

Granted, Costa hasn’t been known his calm attitude, but this is a bit of a shock.

While Chelsea did look good in pounding the Foxes, without Costa, the league leaders lack depth up front. Eden Hazard played as a false 9 on Saturday while summer signing Michy Batshuayi has been deemed unready to play week in, week out.

The transfer window is open, but finding a replacement for a world-class striker like Costa in the winter window is a tough ask.

With reports that the Spaniard is back in training already, this might be just a small speedbump on Chelsea’s road to the title, but you never know what can happen with these little cracks in the armour over time.


Harry Kane was robbed of two goals this weekend, but we’re not going to hold it against him. Why? Because he scored three other ones.

The Tottenham striker took home the game ball after netting a hat trick against West Brom, showing some quality in his strikes, too.

They weren’t world-class goals, but they weren’t easy poacher scores, either.

That’s also six goals in his past four games as Spurs continue to look like a real title-challenger.


Getting four goals on four shots on target with just 29% possession is the most FIFA 17 result ever. Not sure how Everton pulled off this blowout win of Manchester City, but if you saw those stats in your video game, you’d be pissed. Pep Guardiola might have bit off more than he can chew taking on this City team. There are no easy games in the EPL … Watching Peter Crouch – he of the brand-new contract extension signed this week – beat goalkeeper Vito Mannone to the ball for the header and a goal is the most Peter Crouch thing ever. The lanky striker’s head was higher than the keeper’s hands – that’s incredible … Some lovely play by Marko Arnautovic on Stoke’s other two goals against Sunderland … Who needs Costa when you have Marcos Alonso bagging a brace? This defender is looking like one of the signings of the summer … Punching-bag ref Mike Dean has been demoted to the Championship. Five of Dean’s past six red cards have been rescinded on appeal … Is there much to say about Liverpool’s clash with Manchester United? Seemed like a pretty uneventful 1-1 draw. The only real takeaway is that Paul Pogba really needs to keep his arms down when going for a clearance … Spurs will surely miss Jan Vertonghen, who is out for about six weeks with an ankle injury that looked worse than that. Even worse, this comes just three games after Toby Alderweireld returned from injury. Will we ever see Spurs’ back four intact? … Michail Antonio notched three assists for West Ham in their win over Crystal Palace. For the record, Mesut Ozil has three assists this entire season … What an amazing overhead kick by Andy Carroll. You would never expect a bit of skill from the bulldozing striker.


Diego Costa wasn’t the only wantaway star scratched this weekend.

West Ham have a pretty big problem of its own, now that superstar Dimitri Payet has said that he doesn’t want to play for the London club any more.

Despite the Irons’ nice 3-0 win over Crystal Palace on the weekend, this is terrible news the club. Payet is by the far the most talented player on the side and a rising star in world football after his performance at Euro 2016.

West Ham know his importance and what he is capable of, which is why it signed him to a five-and-a-half year contract extension last February.

But, as we’ve seen time and again, contracts don’t mean much in European football, where the player seemingly holds all power.

The big irony here is that when current West Ham manager Slaven Bilic was a player with the Irons a decade ago, he forced his way out in a very similar way. Calling out Payet like this reeks of the pot calling the kettle black.

Whether the club gives in to Payet’s demands remains to be seen, but right now, the situation doesn’t look like it will end well.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Leave a Reply