Few players have the ability to dismantle defenses just by their mere presence on the pitch , Diego Costa however precarious his position in the Chelsea team might be , definitely is one of those players. EADF Writer Rushabh Shah gives his two Cents on Costa’s tumultuous but successful time at Chelsea.
When Didier Drogba left Chelsea in 2012, he left a gaping hole in the team. He is arguable the best striker to have donned the blue of Chelsea and replacing him has been harder than expected. In 2011, Fernando Torres was signed for £50 million in the hope of being Drogba’s successor, but his Chelsea career never got going and we never got to see the Torres of old shine in the blue of Chelsea. Fast forward three years, with Jose Mourinho back at Chelsea, the hunt for Drogba’s replacement continued and then in came Diego Costa. Signed for £32 million from Atletico Madrid, Costa was expected to fire Chelsea to their first league title in four years. Supporters had seen obvious similarities between Costa and Drogba and the Blues’ fans thought that they finally got a striker they had longed for.
Costa’s Chelsea career got off to a flying start, scoring on his debut against Burnley. Him and Fabregas formed a connection that we had not seen since the Lampard and Drogba days. The fans took to him from the very beginning and the ‘Diego, Diego, Diego!’ chants were born. His playing style was almost reminiscent of Drogba in his prime. Costa took the Premier League by storm, with his brute strength, aggression and ‘dark arts’. He bullied defenders, struck fear in the opposition and the results were clear: 13 premier league goals by the end of the year and leading the battle for the golden boot. He ended the year with 20 league goals, as his form tapered off during the second half of the season (something that seemed to become a repetitive issue in coming years).
Indeed, Costa’s goals and attacking play fired Chelsea to the league title, but he also became the league’s new pantomime villain. The English media is famous for making a scape goat of players (remember Suarez?) and now they found the perfect target. Costa’s aggression, desire to fight (quite literally) and theatrics did not help his cause. One week the media and pundits would praise him for his goals and attacking play and the next week the same people would criticize him for his ‘dark arts’. Opposition fans too got on this bandwagon. They booed him in across every stadium in England (oh, but how they would have loved to have him on their team!). It became clear that all this negativity eventually got to Costa, when he told a Portuguese interviewer that he had not quite settled in after his first year in England.
Costa, like most foreign players, did not speak English when he first arrived in England. However, almost all players do their best to learn and speak the new language. But Costa was completely against this. Not knowing the language deprived him of the opportunity to speak back against the media and share his side of the story. He was fighting a lost cause: silence against the English media is like fighting fire with wooden sticks. Not enjoying life in London, the only satisfaction he found was playing with his Chelsea teammates. But when the team crumbled (that’s a nice way of saying it) in Mourinho’s third season, Costa lost his confidence. He was clearly unsettled, did not feel part of the environment and this was very clear when he tossed his bid at Mourinho, after being an unused substitute in a game at White Hart Lane.
The 2015–16 showed that is Costa clearly wanted out of England and had his heart set on move back to Spain. He only scored three league goals in the first half of the season, with suspensions and hamstring injuries (both had affected him in the first year too) limiting his playing time. He ended the year with 12 league goals, once again capping off a season of two halves. Once the season was over, everyone expected Costa to leave and he himself said that he wanted to go back to Atletico Madrid. But the incoming Antonio Conte convinced him to stay and that decision proved fruitful. He scored 14 goals in the first half of the season as he fired Chelsea to an unassailable lead at the top of the table. Once again though, his goals dried off, scoring only six goals in the second half of the season. Not only his goals but also his attacking play and desire seemed to disappear. His head had clearly been turned by the big money offer from China in January.
The Chinese offer caused a spat between Conte and Costa, but somehow the combustible pair made their peace and Costa stayed until the end of the season. Then the inevitable happened on 8th June, 2017. Conte apparently sent Costa telling him that he is not in his plans next season and that Costa should find a new club. This sent shockwaves across the footballing community, but personally I expected Conte to let Costa go. Conte is a manager who settles for nothing but 100% commitment and he never got that from Costa. First it was Atletico in the summer and then China in the winter. Costa always seemed to want to leave. Conte was never going to settle for this behavior and the inevitable happened. I fully expect Costa to be sold, most likely to Atletico, and Conte to bring in someone who wants to play for Chelsea and fight for the jersey.
Costa’s Chelsea career has had its ups and downs but the last three years showed Chelsea fans that he could have finally filled the Drogba size hole in the team. But his story is one of ifs and buts, and Chelsea fans can only dream of what could have been if he had committed fully to staying in England. Costa leaves behind a legacy that Chelsea fans will always remember and he will always be welcome back at the club. But now the hunt begins once again to find a striker, who has to live up to expectations set by Drogba and Costa.