According to reports from The Independent and well, just about everybody, Chelsea will spend the next few weeks deliberating over Diego Costa’s future at the club.
It has not been a good season in west London as the Blues find themselves in 14th place with just 15 points after 14 games, but many have found the Spain international’s performances particularly disappointing.
After starting the campaign overweight by his own admission, Costa has gone on to score just four goals in 17 appearances across all competitions – a far cry from the 20-haul last season that fired Chelsea to the Premier League title. Likewise, his ill-discipline resulted in a three-match ban in September and more recently a spate of public spats with manager Jose Mourinho.
So although we at Football FanCast aren’t particularly in the pro-Costa camp or anti-Costa camp, we’ve decided to play devil’s advocate by listing FOUR reasons why Chelsea should consider selling their first-choice centre-forward…
At first glance, Diego Costa’s 25 goals in 53 appearances for Chelsea – and particularly his Premier League return of 23 in 38 – is the strike-rate you’d expect from a first-choice striker at a top-end Champions League club. It may not be quite up there with Sergio Aguero and Robert Lewandowski, but it’s certainly not too far off.
On closer inspection, however, the Spain international’s goal record for the Blues isn’t actually that impressive. Eleven of those strikes came in his first nine Premier League appearances and 17 came in his first 18 league outings, meaning Costa’s return since last January is six in 20 PL appearances.
Likewise, the 27-year-old has scored just once in eleven Champions League outings for the Blues, despite partly earning his summer 2014 move to Stamford Bridge by netting eight times in Europe’s top competition during his final campaign at Atletico Madrid.
Of course, there are mitigating factors such as Costa’s injury problems and Chelsea’s style of play, which doesn’t exactly create chance after chance for the 6 foot 2 striker, but it’s evidence that there probably are more dependable and prolific goal scorers out there on the transfer market.
Jose Mourinho has always warmed to firey, passionate and aggressive characters like Diego Costa, but his recent antics have certainly blurred the line of acceptability.
Suspensions for stamping on Emre Can last season and committing ‘violent conduct’ against Arsenal in September can perhaps be overlooked, considering Costa has always played on the edge and the FA probably only took action because the incidents were in such high-profile games.
But the 27-year-old’s hot-headedness is beginning to affect the rest of his game. Against Manchester City in August, a wayward elbow from Fernandinho resulted in him spending the entire second half looking for revenge, rather than looking to overturn the Blues’ eventual 3-0 deficit.
And in recent weeks, Costa’s antics have reached a new, more disturbing level amid a series of public displays of defiance towards Mourinho.
Last Tuesday’s half-time spat with the Portuguese as both walked towards the tunnel during a Champions League win over Maccabi Tel Aviv was followed on Sunday by Costa throwing his bib at the Chelsea manager after discovering he wouldn’t be brought on. He also allegedly refused to warm-up upon discovering that he wasn’t in the starting XI to face Spurs.
Funnelling your aggression towards the opposition is one thing, but turning it towards your own manager is another. It could be seen as a challenge to Mourinho’s ability and authority and certain managers – particularly, the great Sir Alex Ferguson – certainly wouldn’t stand for it.
In addition to Costa’s aforementioned disciplinary issues, his proneness to injury is also a concern – especially in the long-term.
The hamstring problem that saw the striker subbed off by Atletico just a matter of minutes into the 2014 Champions League final appears to be a long-lasting one and ruled him out for a significant chunk of last season as well.
The Spaniard’s fitness this year has been much better in comparison but the delicate hamstring still seems like a ticking time bomb that could catch up with at any moment.
One dares to speculate it might also be impacting his performances; when players know they have a long-term issue, it can often play on their minds and force them into a reduced game. Costa’s certainly lacked the speed and power of last year.
No doubt, the 27-year-old possesses that warrior spirit of defying pain to make it into the starting Xi even if he has to be stretchered to the touchline. But why have a striker cursed with injury issues if you can find another who boasts a much cleaner bill of health and who will probably enjoy a longer career?
Football is a business – something that Chelsea have certainly taken into account since Jose Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge in summer 2013.
The Blues’ enormous loan operation brings in huge profits and gives them more room for manoeuvre under Financial Fair Play, whilst the Portuguese’s restraint in the transfer market has seen him spend no more than £32million on a single player.
That sum was spent on Diego Costa due to a release clause in his Atletico Madrid contract and represents a figure Chelsea can realistically expect to receive should they decide to sell the out-of-form Spaniard.
The Blues may have to shave a few million off, due to fact they’re actively looking to sell, but Costa is well worth that amount to another club. Wolfsburg paid only £10million less to sign Andre Schurrle not too long ago, for example.
I’m not suggesting Chelsea should sell simply to get their money back, but they would make a marginal loss at worst and be able to reinvest that sum in a replacement front-man. So if one is already on their radar, it’s probably worth it.