Diego Costa's last options: Which clubs he can still join on loan this summer?
The Spanish transfer deadline came and went on Friday with no resolution to the Diego Costa saga, leaving the unsettled striker facing the prospect of at least four more months in exile before he could be granted his desired move from Chelsea back to Atletico Madrid.
If Costa doesn't want to sit around on the sidelines until January, however, there are possible alternatives. ESPN FC runs through the five main options available to him now that the transfer windows in many of Europe's major leagues have closed.
Return to Chelsea and train
Chelsea have positioned themselves for a possible legal dispute with Costa by including him in their Premier League squad list, shortly after reiterating that they expect him to fulfil the terms of his contract by returning to England, coming back to training, getting himself back into match shape and putting himself in position to be selected.
Judging by his disdainful laughter last month when it was put to him that Costa had been treated "like a criminal" by Chelsea, it's highly unlikely that Antonio Conte will consider picking him again under any circumstances. The Spain international almost certainly wouldn't even be training with the rest of the first-team squad at Cobham.
But it's still a chance for Costa to get himself into shape with a view to a January transfer. Rebuilding some bridges with Chelsea might also help to facilitate his eventual exit.
Stay in Brazil
Costa has already stated that he is prepared to take a year's worth of fines from Chelsea rather than return to the club -- though it's unclear how serious he was or even how much it would achieve given that he still has two years remaining on his contract at Stamford Bridge.
Spending an entire season in exile would be unprecedented for a player of his profile, outdoing even Carlos Tevez's acrimonious five-month public spat with Manchester City and Roberto Mancini in the 2011-12 season.
It would also torpedo Costa's chances of representing Spain at next summer's World Cup -- the last that falls within his prime years. Julen Lopetegui has already warned the striker that he has to resolve his situation soon to be considered and called up David Villa. And, judging by last weekend's 3-0 humiliation of Italy, the former world and European champions aren't missing Costa.
Go on loan to Turkey
The Turkish Super Lig long ago established itself as a destination for many of European football's lost or forgotten talents, and both Fenerbahce and Besiktas have expressed an interest in signing Costa until January in recent days.
Fenerbahce's decision to loan Vincent Janssen from Tottenham appears to have ruled them out of the running, but the Besiktas president is reportedly in London seeking talks with Chelsea, though an agreement is regarded as highly unlikely.
If Costa is to go to Turkey for six months, a deal will have to be done quickly -- the country's transfer window closes at 11 p.m. BST on Friday.
Go on loan to Portugal
Unlike the majority of major European leagues, Portuguese clubs are allowed to do business until Sept. 22. This makes the Primeira Liga the only viable European destination for Costa once the Turkish window closes. The 28-year-old played briefly at Braga and Panafiel early in his career, so there would be no leap into the unknown.
The big three clubs of Portuguese football -- Porto, Benfica and Sporting -- have to be considered the likeliest to take Costa on loan, though none have expressed anY interest in doing so at this stage.
Look further afield
China is no longer an option, even for a possible loan deal, with their transfer window closed from mid-July until January. Brazilian clubs are also unable to register new players until the start of 2018.
Argentina's deadline is not until Sept. 17, though covering Costa's £120,000-a-week wages might be a stumbling block even for their most illustrious clubs.
Qatari clubs can still sign players until the end of this month, while a move to the U.A.E. would be possible until Oct. 2. Neither offer the standard of football that Costa requires to get himself into elite condition and back into the Spain reckoning, however, and a loan deal also rules out the possibility of a lucrative pay day.
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.