I knew that, at some point during the 2014 World Cup, I would be writing a piece about Diego Costa. I was confident that there would be a moment of either brilliance or foolishness that would compel me to write. What I was not prepared for was the elimination of Spain after just two matches making the decision for me.
Chelsea’s 2013-2014 campaign was, by most measures, a successful transition season. Finishing 3rd in the Premier League (with a 4-0-0 record vs. the teams in front of them) and making the UEFA Champions League semi-finals would be deemed a raving success at most clubs, but Chelsea plays for trophies and José won’t be satisfied with a similar haul next year. If you were going to poll the soccer media, they would all say that the single biggest reason for Chelsea’s “struggles” was the lack of scoring success from the #9, #19, and #29.
So, it comes as no surprise that nearly every outlet associated with soccer has posted some version of “Sources link Diego Costa with a move to Chelsea,” in the past month. While we have an pretty decent sample size from his time at Atlético Madrid where he netted 43 goals in 94 appearances (36 in 52 in 13-14), his transition to the La Furia Roja as their front man, gave us insight into what we may be getting ourselves into.
The Good: What a force of nature he is on the pitch. The charging, creative rushes to the box, keeping the back line under constant pressure. He flash of skill he showed with the bicycle kick that should have resulted in a Spanish goal against Chile. So while he was goalless during the two matches, you can’t say he didn’t have an impact.
The Bad: The headbutt. Oh my the headbutt. The “trip” in the box. A trip down a YouTube rabbit hole will lead to you several video accounts of Costa being less than the exemplary sportsman on the pitch and it was all on display against the Netherlands. Sitting in a crowded pub, my friends immediately began to needle me saying, “I bet you can’t wait to root for him.” Also, did I mention he failed to score?
Now, is that a result of being paired with the midfield combo he has little experience with? Is it his less than perfect fitness that he entered the tournament with? Who can say for sure, but what we do know is that these were not the types of performances that will instill excessive confidence in Chelsea supporters.
The ultimate question is, can Costa be the type of lead striker Chelsea needs to once again find their way to the top of the table. Just because he’s a better option than what they have (I say that confidently), doesn’t mean he’s the best option for the Blues. But, if José Mourinho thinks he’s the best option, then in José we trust.