As Diego Costa moved to the brink of completing his bitter divorce from Chelsea, Antonio Conte described his replacement, Alvaro Morata, as the kind of person you would want your daughter to marry.
The difference in how Chelsea’s manager discussed the two strikers could not have been starker, with Conte thanking Costa for his service and saying little else, before waxing lyrical about the ‘polite’ forward who took his place.
His reluctance to talk about the former is understandable, given the ferocity and frequency of the disagreements he had with Costa, who landed in Madrid on Friday ahead of his return to Atletico.
Antonio Conte lavished praise on his summer signing, calling him a ‘really good guy’
But it felt pointed when he dwelt on the character traits of Morata, who has scored three goals in five Premier League fixtures since joining from Real Madrid.
On Morata, Conte said: ‘He’s a really good guy. It means, if you have a daughter you’d be open to have this type of person with your daughter, to marry your daughter. A really good guy, a polite person.
“I know Alvaro well, he’s a really good guy, a good person, and a good signing for Chelsea because Alvaro is only 24 years old.
“I like him because he’s a complete player and also he has a lot of room to improve in every situation, tactical, physical, technical aspect,’ Conte continued.
‘He’s very committed, his behaviour is always fantastic. He is a very polite player — I like this — and also I like that he’s a good finisher, he feels the goal in every moment, and always understands which is the best position in the box to receive the ball.’
Glowing praise indeed, but it will interesting to see if there comes a time when Conte misses the devil in Costa, who put in three transfer requests in a single season but had the ability to cajole a team with his aggression.
His personality was of huge value in Chelsea’s two title wins in his three seasons, before the exile that preceded a move to Atletico, for whom he is unable to play for before January when the club’s transfer ban ends.
Conte did say of Costa: “I think every single player was important last season, we won the title, we won the league, maybe it was a big surprise, and also to reach the final of the FA Cup, every player performed in a fantastic way last season.
“I want to thank every player who played last season for Chelsea. I repeat now: I’m not interested to talk about the past. I think the past is not important. For every player, for every single player, the past stay there. If you did well in the past, OK.
“But don’t forget we won together last season (with Costa). For sure we want to thank him for his effort last season with us. Not only last season , but in the period that he played for Chelsea.”