Diego da Silva Costa, the Brazilian Spaniard who has been burdened with the responsibility of filling the void that Radamel Falcao left at Atletico Madrid when he departed for France in the summer. Liverpool showed a major interest in the forward during the last transfer window and some reports suggested that The Reds had met the release clause in his contract of around £20m but he stayed put in Madrid. More recently, given his more than impressive start to the current campaign, Arsenal is the latest Premier League club to be linked heavily with the striker with Chelsea also keeping tabs. So what is it about Diego Costa that is attracting the big clubs?
Having initially joined Atletico from Braga back in 2007, his career in Spain got off to a rather slow start and he was sent out on loan to three different clubs in Spain, eventually being sold to Valladolid in 2009. However, after showing some promise while at Valladolid, Athletico exercised the buy-back clause that was inserted into Costa's contract which saw the striker make a return to the Madrid club but very much in a back-up role. Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero were first choice strikers and he found it difficult to dislodge them. Forlan and Aguero both departed in the summer of 2011 which was good news for Costa but unfortunately for him, he suffered a serious knee injury before the season even began which saw him sit out the first half of the season. Falcao had come in that same summer and his immediate success meant that Costa was again loaned out, this time to Rayo Vallecano for the remainder of the season, primarily to regain fitness after his injury set back. So finally, in the summer of 2012, Costa was ready to play a major role in Atletico's fortunes and even though he was still behind Falcao in the pecking order, he made over 40 appearances and bagged a very impressive 20 goals in the process. The departure of Falcao then promoted Costa to the position of first choice striker at Atletico Madrid and from the evidence, he has benefitted hugely from the added responsibility.
You could describe Costa's playing style as a cross between Fat Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy. He has a very similar running style to the legendary Ronaldo de Lima; powerful and direct. He may not be as skilful as Ronaldo but Costa has very good balance and upper body strength making it very difficult to wrestle the ball from him. He's not the quickest forward in the world but he seems to 'run smart' rather than 'run hard' and is often the man who puts the finishing touch on a counter attack. With Falcao in the squad, Costa was used as a supporting striker sometimes even coming in from wide areas but now that he is the main striker, his striking instincts in and around the penalty box are similar to the aforementioned van Nistelrooy. With David Villa now operating as the secondary striker, Costa finds himself in the box a lot more than he did last season and is becoming accustomed to hitting the net from close range, often from within the six-yard box. This is a trait that wasn't so obvious in previous seasons but his increased exposure to the opposition goal has brought this out of him.
Diego Costa is clearly a player who believes in his own ability as is the case with any footballer born in Brazil. He is stronger on his right foot but such is his confidence that he will not hesitate to pull the trigger with his left peg and if he is inside the box - that will usually result in a goal. This season, out of 68 shots at goal, he has found the net 21 times which equates to 31% of his shots being converted to goals, making him more efficient in front of goal than Cristiano Ronaldo who has a conversion rate of just 17%. Yes, Ronaldo has scored 18 more goals but he needs to take 6 shots to score 1 goal whereas Costa needs just 3 shots. At the moment, Costa is scoring just over a goal a game and you cannot ask more of a striker playing in one of the toughest leagues in the world. Although he is not renowned for his aerial ability, he does possess a good leap and uncharacteristically for a Brazilian he does get the odd headed goal. Oh wait, he's Spanish.
So where would he fit? Quite simply – he is perfect for Chelsea. With Arsenal's recent injury problems involving their strike force, they could do with Costa within their ranks but his style is one that wouldn't necessary stand out as one compatible with the Arsenal system. The Gunners tend to excel using the '9 ½' style striker – someone who has the freedom to roam, pick up the ball from midfield, play a one-two and find himself in the box. Giroud has been doing this most recently and with players like van Persie, Bergkamp and of course Henry, it is quite obvious that Wenger's style of football requires a certain type of forward. The failures of Chamakh, Bendtner, Chu Young and Eduardo all show that being a good out and out striker is not quite enough. Luis Suarez would have been, and still would be perfect.
So back to Chelsea. Mourinho's previous tenure in West London was hugely successful and this was down to a very strong core consisting of Cech, Terry, Ballack, Essien and Drogba. Although you can't deny that the spine of Jose's current team is very good, he is still missing the battering-ram of a striker that Drogba was for him previously. Costa is the closest thing that he will find in the market to The Drog and his physical style will suit Mourinho's philosophy. Mourinho's teams tend to use the striker as the focal point of the attacks with two inside forwards which is something that Costa will relish given his success in a very similar role at Atletico. Costa's lack of pace will not be an issue just as it wasn't for Drogba and with his ability to hold up the ball if needed but more importantly the ability to mop up anything in and around the box could be just the thing Jose Mourinho needs to kick-start another successful reign as manager of Chelsea Football Club.