Chelsea are loaning Diego Costa to Atlético Madrid for the rest of the season and the Spanish club have committed to buy him for €65 million (£57.1m) at the end of that arrangement.
The deal for Costa to leave was finally struck after it was agreed that Chelsea would not subsidise his wages, even though he cannot play for Atlético until January because of their transfer ban, or pay him any loyalty bonus.
The terms of the agreement mean that Costa is no longer Chelsea’s concern and can now travel to Madrid to complete his medical and agree personal terms – and is expected to be presented to the supporters before the home game against Sevilla on Saturday.
After that, of course, Atlético face Chelsea at their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium in the Champions League and it will be fascinating to see whether Costa is in the stands for that eagerly-anticipated encounter.
Given Costa has gone AWOL for 11 weeks, spending the entire summer in Brazil, and has refused to return to Chelsea this season, then the notion of a loyalty payment would seem remarkable although contractually it related to a percentage of any transfer fee agreed being due to him under his contract.
Chelsea have repeatedly fined Costa during his absence, insisting that he is an employee in breach of contract. The Professional Footballers’ Association blocks players being fined more than two weeks' wages but that is only in the case of them making themselves available to play. Costa has not done that and given he earns £150,000-a-week then he may well be £1.5m out of pocket.
To do this Chelsea have adhered to a four-point plan – that Costa, despite his desire to go, needed to return to England, train, get fit and get himself in contention – despite, also, manager Antonio Conte having texted the 28-year-old to tell him he was not part of his plans.
Chelsea were always prepared to sell Costa but the message from owner Roman Abramovich was clear: he would not be allowed to force his way out on the cheap. It almost became a point of principle at the club. Atlético, whose coach Diego Simeone has driven the deal, had initially offered as little as £26m for Chelsea’s top-scorer last season in the belief that the Stamford Bridge hierarchy would simply want rid of him. There was a fear at Chelsea that Atlético may make a similarly low offer in January.
Costa is not allowed to play until then because of the transfer ban on Atlético which may, actually, have helped him to secure his move given the club were close to signing Alexandre Lacazette before he agreed a deal to join Arsenal. Costa has been determined to return to his former club, three years after left in July 2014 when his £32m release clause was triggered, since summer 2016. Indeed he told Conte on the preseason tour of the United States 14 months ago, soon after the Italian was appointed, that he wanted to go back to Madrid. But, at that time, Atlético bought the French striker Kevin Gameiro instead.
Costa has always been a firm favourite of Simeone who wanted him back at the club and even demanded it as part of his recent contract negotiations. The Spanish international will be allowed to train with Atlético but he cannot be registered to play for them until the ban is lifted on January 1 2018