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Chelsea coach Antonio Conte: Diego Costa told he could go in January

SHANGHAI -- Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has said the decision to part company with Diego Costa was taken in January.

Costa, expected to leave Stamford Bridge this summer, said he had received a text from Conte at the end of last season to tell him he was no longer in his plans.

But the coach said he had delivered that news to Costa and in his agent in January after the striker was linked with a big-money move to China.

Speaking at a news conference, he told reporters: "In January, the Costa situation was very clear for the club, for him, and for his agent.

"For me, the situation is closed."

The manager said Alvaro Morata, whose arrival from Real Madrid is set to be confirmed imminently, "is for sure our first choice."

He added: "He's a good striker. He's a player with the right prospect for Chelsea.

"He's very young, and for sure he can improve a lot. We hope he will show his value with us."

Diego Costa is set to lave Stamford Bridge.

Defender Gary Cahill said Chelsea's players had been lifted by the news of Morata's forthcoming arrival, describing him as "a fantastic striker."

He added: "He's won a lot of things already in a short space of time. So as players we're excited about the fact that we've signed such a huge player and we look forward to welcoming him to this squad.

"Hopefully he can get many goals for us this season and be very important for us."

Chelsea are defending the Premier League title, and Cahill warned that they must learn from their disastrous defence two years ago.

"The second season after you're champions is very difficult," he said. "We saw that with ourselves, we saw that with Leicester last season. When you're champions, all of the rest of the league wants to beat you."

Cahill is set to take the club captaincy after John Terry's departure to Aston Villa and said: "I feel like I'm at an age where I can pass on a bit of experience, especially to the younger players."

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.


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