Diego Costa: Why Liverpool Are Right To Pursue Atletico's Brilliant Bad Boy Brazilian
The players were doing some stretching after a pre season training session on a July morning. Suddenly a mobile phone starts to ring and coach Gregorio Manzano asks whom the phone belongs to. Seeing an opportunity, José Antonio Reyes pipes up and says it is Diego Costa’s, to which players, coaches and on looking journalists all laugh at. Costa had become the butt of the jokes and his credibility had taken another hit. That was July 2010 but now in 2013 no one is laughing at the Brazilian striker as he is starting to get the credit he finally deserves and this time for the right reasons.
At just 18, Diego Costa was sold to Atlético de Madrid in 2007. The striker was making some waves back in his homeland, Brazil, and Atlético saw an opportunity for a bargain but because he didn’t hold a European passport, he was sent out on loan straight away. Whilst on loan he made headlines but for all the wrong reasons. The player fell into the trap that many a youngster does and was distracted by off the field activities. It was for that reason that Los Rojiblancos included him as part of a deal for shot stopper Sergio Asenjo of Valladolid. Costa would only spend one season there as he made an immediate impact and the powers that be at the Vicente Calderon took advantage of a buy back option and brought him back as cover for Kun Agüero and Diego Forlán.
Quique Sanchez Flores had just guided the club to its first trophy since 1996 and things were on the up for Atlético, or so they seemed. Early elimination for the defending champions of the Europa League and being knocked out by bitter rivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey had raised tensions in the squad. Poor league form and players openly admitting that they would like a move away from the club showed that Flores was losing control of the group and someone had to pay the price. That someone was Diego Forlán and Costa was given his chance. He took it with two hands and in the summer of 2011 it looked like he was finally able to put his demons to rest but it would end up being a summer of hell for the forward.
Agüero announced just a few hours after the season finished that he wanted to go and Forlán was also expected to be on his merry way. Flores didn’t renew his contract and the club appointed Gregorio Manzano, much to supporters disgust, to try and re build the squad. Costa was seen as key to that but when he didn’t show up for the first day of pre-season training, it was believed that he had returned to his wild ways. Nobody could contact him and he was AWOL. Eventually he did make contact saying he had lost his Spanish mobile phone and that the club didn’t have his Brazilian number to contact him. The club accepted his explanation and got down to business, as they had to start their Europa League campaign at the end of July. Costa was the root of many jokes on the training ground but he was working his socks off to show the club that he was a different player and Manzano seemed to believe that he had turned a corner but then tragedy struck.
As the team worked behind closed doors on the eve of their first Europa League game, Costa suffered a serious knee injury. He would not play for Atlético again that year. He was sent home to Brazil to recover but he returned after just a few weeks, determined to show his worth. On the pitch, Adrián Lopez was making a name for himself and so the club decided to send him on loan to struggling Rayo Vallecano. He was a key part in the club's survival, scoring ten goals and when fans invaded the pitch, after Raul Tamudo scored a late goal that sealed their top flight status, he left with nothing on but his briefs as fans stripped his kit for mementos. Rayo fans wanted him to stay but Atlético had been keeping an eye on him and wanted him back.
Adrián’s poor start to the season saw Costa get his chance again and he hasn’t looked back since. Radamel Falcao’s recent poor displays have been overshadowed by Costa’s energy and commitment. He is loved by Atlético fans and loathed by the rest. Off the ball he is a wind up merchant, something he admits to, saying, “I am not a violent player nor am I a cheater, but I am a provocateur”.
Costa has been seen on numerous occasions winding up opposing players. Other players have complained that he whispers things in their ears and he tries to manipulate referees. He does in fact get free kicks in very dangerous areas and if it is true that Arsenal are the ones interested, this could be a great advantage especially with Santi Cazorla in the side. But what about his playing style?
“I’ve done a lot of foolish things, but now I realise that it wasn’t the fault of the referees nor of my opponents, but rather, mine”, he recently said in an interview with the BBC. At Atlético this was a sign of the player finally showing his maturity. His off the ball antics get so many headlines that it is not often mentioned how good a player he is. He may appear to be like a baby foal taking its first steps when he has the ball but it is his sheer size that gives that impression. He can control the ball, he can run with it and he can shoot, head and volley no problem. So why would Liverpool want him? Physically Costa is well built and another thing is that he tends to drop into the midfield to get the ball and then supply it to Sturridge.
While scouts from other clubs have been over checking out his striking partner Falcao, notes have been made on the Brazilian too and so he has some admirers. Atlético want him to sign a new deal and they also hope loyalty will play an important role but after just getting his first Brazil cap and with a chance to step out of the main strikers shadow, a good offer may be too good to turn down.