Jose Mourinho made a right song and dance about his striker situation last season. The Portuguese coach had a World Cup-winner, a player who used to be the highest paid footballer on the planet and a proven Premier League goalscorer in his ranks, yet he was more than a little upset with his options, which were the envy of 90 per cent of the league.
Truth be told, Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba failed to truly deliver, netting just 31 times in all competitions. None of the trio ended the campaign as Chelsea’s top converter either, with Eden Hazard supplying the lion’s share of the goals from a wide attacking role.
It was apparent by March that Mourinho wanted a new striker, and sure enough he has got his man. The club have now paid £32m to trigger the release clause in Diego Costa’s Atletico Madrid contract making him a Blues player. The Brazilian-born Spain international arrives with a big reputation having broken the 30-goal mark with the Rojiblancos last season, and is widely being hailed as the player to pick up the mantle left by Didier Drogba in 2012.
The powerful Ivorian ended his first spell at Chelsea on a real high by netting the penalty-kick that clinched the Champions League trophy in 2012. That moment summed up his entire spell at Stamford Bridge, which was a story of success and the overcoming of obstacles. The now 36-year-old dislodged numerous big name forwards – Hernan Crespo and Andriy Shevchenko to mention just two – on his way to breaking the 100-goal barrier in the blue shirt. Since his exit he has not been truly replaced, with none of Chelsea’s massive signings managing to replicate his form or character, which is one reason why he has been brought back.
But, Costa could be the man to finally fill the void. Although not yet of the same ilk as Drogba, Costa’s game has some similarities with his Stamford Bridge predecessor. We’ll start with power. Costa is by no means an impish forward, he’s a barrel-chested force of nature at times, which served him well in La Liga. His muscular build has been a tool he’s really used to great effect, often out-battling seasoned centre-backs to carve out opportunities for himself and his team-mates.
Drogba was famed for his spiky persona, with the African hero known for outbursts and a no-nonsense attitude. This is also evident in Costa’s approach, with any fan of Spanish football over the course of the past few years likely to testify that the 25-year-old can be a ‘nasty piece of work’ when required. This video shows him taking on two defenders known for their use of the ‘dark arts’ in the shape of Pepe and Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid while giving as good as he gets:
Last up there’s goals. Like or loathe Drogba – he really polarised opinion in English football – he knew how to put the ball in the back of the net. Although his World Cup showing was abject at best – injuries played their part – Costa has illustrated over the last 12 months that he is as lethal as any other marksman in European football. 35 goals in all competitions was a bigger haul than now Barcelona star Luis Suarez, and his league output would have put him second to the Uruguayan in the Premier League last term. Had he been fit for the Champions League Final it may well have been Atleti who lifted the top prize, yet the Madrid side were forced to withdraw him just minutes into the game with a troublesome hamstring injury.
Costa is a largely unproven talent at a relatively late age to be joining a top, top club, but Drogba was once in the same position after proving himself in an impressive Marseille side to attract Chelsea interest.
Many pretenders have chased the big man’s throne at the Bridge, but Costa may well be the player to finally fill that Drogba-shaped hole in West London, even with the Ivorian back in the picture!