Diego Costa appears to have taken a swipe at former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho - hinting that Antonio Conte has gotten the best out of the Blues squad this season because he is so well-liked.
The implication that Mourinho, by extension, was a less popular figure at the end of his second tenure at Stamford Bridge is left hanging by Costa - who speaking to Chelsea TV (via Goal) ahead of Wednesday's crunch clash against Spurs.
On Diego Costa, Conte says when the player decided to stay, he told him that he was determined to give his best for Chelsea. #CFC
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 3, 2017
He said: “I think it’s really important for managers to be liked by his players because ultimately on the pitch, those players will give everything for their manager.
“We have had a change of manager, he is working us hard, but people like him, which is important for everyone connected to the club because it creates a good atmosphere. Sometimes you have managers that have to be the boss, but this manager is a bit friendlier and there is closeness there.
“It is really important to have that at your workplace for you to come in and feel happy. You need a good atmosphere and a bit of fun. When a game comes around, that’s the time to be serious. During the week the training sessions are serious, but away from there, you have to relax and switch off.
2016 - Most @PremierLeague goal involvements in 2016:
Diego Costa: 31
Sergio Agüero/Alexis Sánchez: 28
Harry Kane/Jermain Defoe: 23
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 1, 2017
“We are a family, we spend so much time together, we have to do things that bring us closer together because if not, everything will be too regimented, too professional and I don’t like that, it’s not for me.”
Costa did eventually move on to talk about the now-Manchester United boss, who has guided his side to 13 unbeaten games on the bounce in all competitions, saying: “We had a great manager in Mourinho, who gave us a lot in that first season [Costa’s first at the club]. But last season, things just didn’t go well for us.
.Chelsea v A.F.C. Bournemouth - Premier League
“We knew we had to change things, it wasn’t just the manager’s fault. We had to put in that bit more too. Also in terms of change, it has been a bit of everything: a new manager and wanting to win things because when you do, it’s wonderful and losing hurts.
“We have the backroom staff that he brought too and they have contributed to the good atmosphere, so the manager is great and we are all behind him. We have got to know him properly now and while at first some people might not have liked some of the changes, now he is getting results and convincing people.”