Diego Costa’s rise has been meteoric. From loan spells across various Spanish and Portuguese clubs to talismanic front man of Atletico Madrid, firmly taking over lead scoring duties from Radamel Falcao even before the Colombian had departed for Monaco in the summer.
There are clear traces of Diego Simeone in Costa. It could be argued that the Argentine – one of the last winners of the La Liga title with Atletico – was and still is the perfect mentor for the Brazilian-born Spanish international.
It would have been easy to cast aside the difficult forward. He’s fiery and provocative; Arda Turan memorably tore into Costa earlier in the season against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup when the striker simply wouldn’t yield to the referee’s warning.
Costa incites hatred within his opponents. Real Betis will stand as one of his greater enemies, wherever he ends up in the future. A darker side of the game came to light last season: stamping, spitting, from Betis player Antonio Amaya, and vicious verbal assaults. When the final whistle blew at the Vicente Calderon in Atletico’s 1- 0 win, scored by Costa, you couldn’t restrain Costa from his celebrations of triumph, booting the ball high into the stands upon the referee’s full-time whistle.
But currently on 23 goals for the season, Costa is up there with the most in-demand strikers in Europe. It’s not just Atletico who are flying high in La Liga; Costa very much deserves to be in the company of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as pivotal figures for their respective sides and in the title race.
The interest from England is therefore warranted. Costa isn’t just a battering ram of a forward, though he does that exceptionally well. He’s also hugely gifted from a technical standpoint. His overhead kick goal against Getafe in November opened up a side of Costa’s game that no one thought he had. He’s got drive, pace and the finishing ability to match those who are considered the best. Now he’s also an athletic forward whose ability to do the unexpected only increases his value.
At 25, it could be said that Costa is a late bloomer. Last season, despite playing a very important role for Atletico – and hardly in the shadow of a more reputable name like Falcao – he scored 10 La Liga goals. At the midway point of this season he’s almost doubled that tally.
And again you can’t discredit the influence of Simeone. Atletico have quite a known history of shooting themselves in the foot. They may have won the UEFA Cup in 2010, but when Simeone arrived at tail end of 2011, the club were flirting with relegation. His impact on the club has been monumental, an extension of which can be seen in his handling and developing of Costa. It begs the question why the club didn’t move for Simeone well before they did. He was desperate to land the managerial position at his former club.
Premier League clubs have already been in contact. Liverpool singled out Costa during the summer as a possible replacement for Luis Suarez, and now Arsenal and Chelsea are being heavily linked with a move for the forward; the former having already sent scouts to watch Atletico multiple times this season.
Arsenal and Chelsea are the most obvious suitors. Manchester United will need a forward of exceptional class at some point in the near future with Wayne Rooney’s contract situation still unresolved and Robin van Persie struggling with injuries and his advancing years. For now though, a striker isn’t the priority for David Moyes’ side.
There’s no doubt that both Chelsea and Arsenal have the financial means to sign Costa, with his release clause reportedly standing at €38 million. Even though Atletico will remain adamant that the player is going nowhere, the club’s dire financial situation means they will likely succumb to pressure from numerous quarters.
But that is likely to be in the summer. The club have a legitimate chance of winning the league title this season, with the tie at Barcelona this weekend taking on levels of excitement and intrigue normally reserved for the Clasico. And let’s not dismiss Atletico’s dark horse status in the Champions League.
Heading further into the future, however, Costa would be equally at home at either Stamford Bridge or the Emirates. You feel that both clubs will be chasing his signature in the summer months, especially if he has a productive World Cup. It may very well come down to one club landing Costa and the other moving for Bayern’s Mario Mandzukic.
One way or another, both clubs are in need of a player of Costa’s ability.