By Wayne Veysey
Arsenal have abandoned their pursuit of Atletico Madrid star Diego Costa following lukewarm scouting reports.
Arsene Wenger and his staff had identified the prolific striker as a potential target for both January and during the longer summer transfer window.
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Arsenal chief scout Steve Rowley instructed his team to assess Costa twice in a week at the Vicente Calderon in December, in a Copa del Rey clash against Sant Andreu and a Liga match against Levante.
Costa scored twice in Atletico's 3-2 pre-Christmas win over Levante but Arsenal subsequently decided not to follow up their interest in the player.
Costa has had an outstanding season for Atletico, who are neck-and-neck with Barcelona and Real Madrid in the race for the Liga title. The 25-year-old has scored 26 goals in 34 appearances for Diego Simeone's team in all competitions, with only Cristiano Ronaldo (22) bettering his haul of 21 league strikes.
The Rojiblancos spearhead signed a new contract last August that extended his agreement until 2018 but it is understood a fresh buy-out clause of around €35m was inserted in the deal.
Premier League clubs have been alerted to the potential availability of Costa, who is believed to be on a relatively low wage at the Vicente Calderon, but Arsenal's decision leaves the path clear for Chelsea, who are in the market for a proven centre-forward this summer.
Wenger’s priority remains to capture a top-class striker in the next window after moves for Schalke sensation Julian Draxler and Lazio veteran Miroslav Klose collapsed at the end of last month.
The manner in which Costa has taken on the Atletico scoring baton left by Radamel Falcao when the Colombian joined Monaco last summer has prompted a tug-of-war for his services between Brazil, the country of his birth, and Spain.
Costa played in two friendlies for Brazil last year but, after obtaining dual citizenship, he announced his desire to play for Spain and was called up for November friendlies only to be forced to pull out through injury.