Newcastle United ended their search for a new goalkeeper with the capture of Nick Pope from Burnley over the summer, with the England international joining the Magpies for a fee of just £10m following the Clarets’ relegation.
That price tag is already looking like something of a bargain such has been the 30-year-old’s impact at St James’ Park to date, having helped form part of a defensive unit that has shipped just 11 goals this season – the best record in the division.
Things could well have panned out differently during the recent window, however, with reports in Portugal suggesting that the Tynesiders were keeping a close eye on Porto goalkeeper, Diogo Costa.
The 23-year-old – who has also been linked with Manchester United of late – has no doubt gained notable admirers due to his penalty-saving heroics in recent times, having already made three spot-kick saves in the Champions League so far this season, while also even registering an assist in the 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen.
Despite that form – which has earned the ‘keeper a new long-term deal that includes a reported release clause of around £65m – there are seemingly lingering concerns over his quality between the sticks, with Eddie Howe and co having potentially been wise to avoid pursuing a deal.
A notable example of the Portuguese’ flaws came last year as his side were on the receiving end of a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool at the Estadio do Dragao, with the Switzerland-born colossus producing something of a goalkeeping disasterclass on the night.
The 6 foot 1 man notably flapped at an inswinging cross in the build-up to Mohamed Salah’s opener, before bizarrely failing to deal with a James Milner cross into the box after being left in no man’s land, as Sadio Mane tapped home at the back post.
That grim evening got even worse after the break as the youngster charged out of his goal in an attempt to prevent the Anfield outfit from getting in behind, only to be left scrambling as Roberto Firmino rolled in from distance into the empty net that he had vacated.
Such erratic moments have also now been showcased on the international stage at the World Cup, with the highly-coveted asset having notably produced a number of ‘iffy moments‘ in the tournament thus far, as stated by the Independent’s Kieran Jackson.
The most notable example of such woes came in the opening game win over Ghana, with the 11-cap dud having so nearly cost his side at the death in that 3-2 victory, after failing to realise that opposition striker Inaki Williams was behind him as he dropped the ball to the ground.
Thankfully for his sake, the Athletic Bilbao man slipped after poaching the ball inside the area, with Costa somewhat seeing his blushes spared as Fernando Santos’ men clinched a vital win.
Nevertheless, the young stopper was notably criticised by journalist Josh Bunting for his overall performance, stating:
“Diogo Costa is a very good promising young keeper but he’s looked shaky this afternoon.
“His distribution has been poor, the goals I don’t think he could do much about the actual finish but he wasn’t convincing from crosses and then that moment of madness at the end. Just so nervy.”
That assessment seemingly encapsulates his tournament as a whole with the Porto man having conceded five goals in his four outings and kept just one clean sheet, while also squandering possession on average 11 times per game and recording just a 6.7 average match rating, as per Sofascore.
Even during the 6-1 thrashing of the country of his birth in the round of 16 the Magpies target also had a ‘couple of wobbles‘ – in the words of 90min’s Sean Walsh – having failed to convince as yet in Qatar.
On the evidence of such displays, Newcastle chief Dan Ashworth may well have dodged a bullet by not bringing Costa to the club, while the hope will be that more recent reports of the club’s interest prove to be unfounded…