Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas has revealed he "never considered" leaving the club last summer despite repeated speculation that his time at Stamford Bridge was at an end.
Speaking to Marca, he expressed that last season - his first under Antonio Conte - was a "difficult" one for him as he wasn't considered first choice in the club's midfield; even while the club secured the Premier League title. However, the player also spoke out on the recently departed Diego Costa, and Fabregas did not mince his words.
Costa was excluded from first team matters via text message by Conte at the end of last season, and the club went on to sign Alvaro Morata to replace him. Last week, Atletico Madrid confirmed a deal to take him back to Spain in the January transfer window, and the two clubs will meet in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
Speaking on the situation of his friend, Fabregas admitted it was a "shame" to see him leave Chelsea and that he didn't want Costa to leave at all.
He said: "It's a shame for him more than anyone. Diego knew that if he signed for Atletico he could not play for a few months. It has been a difficult situation for both him and for Chelsea; it has been wrong.
"Clearly I would have preferred for him to continue as a teammate. Diego will never be a rival to me. In recent years there has not been a pure striker better than him; he understood my game, read my passes and most importantly he could score from them.
"With Diego it is not just what he gives you on the pitch but it is his character, too, he brings a lot to the group."
And speaking on his own club future, Fabregas went on to admit that leaving was never an option - despite links with a move to AC Milan among others.
He added: "I'm not going to deny it, it was a difficult season. I came from playing everything with [Jose] Mourinho and [Guus] Hiddink and then suddenly I was not counted on all of the time. Not everyone knows what I went through during those months and there were people who went as far as to say that it was no longer worth it. Only my family knows what I have been through.
"Honestly, no (leaving was ever an option). I know what I can give the team and if I can play or not so I decided to stay and fight. With Antonio there is no option other than to compete and give 100 percent in every training session and each match."