LONDON -- Diego Costa has been dropped for Chelsea's Premier League clash with Leicester City after a row with Antonio Conte and a lucrative transfer offer from the Chinese Super League, sources have confirmed to ESPN FC.
Chelsea head to the King Power Stadium on Saturday hoping to preserve their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League but Costa, the division's top scorer with 14 goals in 19 appearances this season, has not travelled with the rest of the squad.
He has instead trained alone at Cobham for the past three days after becoming embroiled in a heated argument with a fitness coach over an injury, following which Conte got involved and decided to punish his striker after siding with his staff in the dispute.
Chelsea declined to comment on the matter Friday, and Costa's only communication was an Instagram post in support the team ahead of Saturday's match.
In the background there is also the ominous presence of significant interest in Costa from China, with a report in the Telegraph claiming that one club has informed the Spain international they are willing to offer him £30 million-a-year after taxes to leave Stamford Bridge in January.
Costa's contract runs until June 2019 and while Chelsea were reportedly keen to tie down their star striker to an extension prior to the recent dispute, there is a determination among the club hierarchy to hold him to the remainder of his current deal if he attempts to force an exit to China.
A photo posted by Diego Costa (@diego.costa) on
Speaking last month as Oscar prepared to complete a £60 million move from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG, Conte described the wave of massive offers being made by Chinese Super League clubs as a "danger" to all of world football.
But despite Atletico Madrid's public pursuit of a move to bring an unsettled Costa back to the Spanish capital last summer, Chelsea never wavered in their stance that the 28-year-old was not for sale at any price and he ultimately accepted that his future lay at Stamford Bridge.
Conte is likely to field Eden Hazard as a false nine flanked by Pedro Rodriguez and Willian against Leicester City in Costa's absence, just as he did when the Spain international missed Chelsea's 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Boxing Day due to suspension.