Chelsea confirmed yesterday the £32m capture of long-term target Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid, with the 25-year-old chosen by Jose Mourinho to be the answer to his striking blues at the Bridge. Costa has proven himself to be a very able goalscorer in the Spanish top flight over his four years at Atletico (his second stint at the club), last year scoring 35 times in just 46 appearances for the La Liga winners, and arrives in the Premier League as one of the hottest forwards in the game.
He joins former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas in West London for the new season, further increasing Chelsea’s Spanish contingent, and seemingly resolving both the midfield and forward line issues within one summer month; but I fear the Blues may be in for a bumpy ride with Costa, and that his signing could well turn out to be a huge mistake for Mourinho and the club.
With the latest Luis Suarez biting debacle, it is becoming increasingly clear that the morality in football is being stoutly defended by both the press and the powers that reside over the beautiful game, with the Uruguayan handed an unprecedented four-month ban. While Diego Costa has no vampiric tenancies that we know of, he is every bit as volatile as the disgraced Liverpool striker, and employs a style of play often based solely around intimidation and aggression.
An eye-opening piece from the Telegraph’s Jason Burt highlighted just how bad an apple this Costa is, and how much of a threat he poses to Chelsea as a brand.
Burt summarizes the rise of Costa as such: “A volatile young boy who had to fight and scrap, battle and scratch his way from the streets of Brazil to become one of the world’s leading strikers”
Not a Disney film in the making by any stretch, Costa’s career to date has been utterly littered with heinous misdemeanors and appalling, character defining actions. Renowned agent Jorge Mendes, who wanted to take the-then 16-year-old Costa to Portugal in 2006, was almost scuppered when first going to see him play in his native Brazil, with the striker at the time serving a four-month footballing ban for punching an opponent and threatening a referee.
So it took Suarez three bites to be slapped with a four-month suspension, but it took a teenage Costa mere minutes with his aggression and fists to get the same punishment.
Some may say that he was just a wee lad, and that the discipline needed, and expected of a top flight professional like Suarez, was not yet ingrained in Costa. But this was far from the last indiscretion, for he was loaned away from Sporting Braga for consistent ill-discipline and a toxic attitude.
When shipped out to Atletico Madrid, who decided to take a gamble on him in 2007, he failed to play a single game, was loaned out three more times, and eventually discarded to Real Valladolid. During that time, he was reportedly fined for breaches of discipline, failing to maintain his weight, and for arriving to training late.
Returning to Atletico in 2010 after showing promise at Valladolid, Costa finally hit the big time during another loan spell away, this time at Rayo Vallecano, where he scored 10 times in 16 appearances. The previous two seasons have been exemplary in terms of goalscoring, bagging 56 goals in 96 games, losing out to only Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for last year’s La Liga Golden Boot.
And yet, doubts remain over his temperament, his dabbling with simulation, and even more worryingly for Chelsea fans, his ability on the biggest stage, with his and Spain’s disastrous World Cup adventure certainly a disconcerting sight.
Costa was completely out of sync with the tiki-taka derivative employed by the Spanish in the two games he played in, with his only impact being on Dutch defender Bruno Martins Indi’s face with a sly butt in the opening Group B fixture.
The 25-year-old will be expected to integrate himself into a Chelsea side centred very much on its attacking midfielders, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian looking to play similarly intricate passing football in and around the opposition box. This requires quick-feet, a subtly of mind, and real agility; with Costa not possessing any of these in his repertoire.
The new Chelsea striker is a brute of a centre-forward, more like Didier Drogba than anything, and while the Ivorian is a legend around West London, even he would be out of place in the new Blues setup.
To my mind, Chelsea fans are in for two possibilities next season with Diego Costa up top.
Firstly, a move away from the fast-paced, complex football typified by the natural abilities of the likes of Hazard, and towards the painfully familiar target-man system seen throughout Mourinho’s first tenure in order to properly facilitate the goalscoring threat of Diego Costa.
Or secondly, a tortuous season of trying to fit yet another square peg in a round hole; but as Mourinho seems so eager to add this malevolent presence to his first XI, the Portuguese may allow Costa to smash his way into relevance in England next season, as he has done so consistently throughout his career. Roman Abramovich’s pursuit of footballing perfection may have taken a turn for the worse here, with Mourinho already struggling to justify his shockingly negative tactics at the tail end of last season.
Diego Costa may be an even greater step in the wrong direction.