Eyebrows were raised when Jose Mourinho splashed out £32 million on Diego Costa in July this year. Costa had previously rattled in 35 goals for Atletico Madrid during the 2013/14 campaign, yet many detractors instead focused on the Brazilian-born forward’s poor World Cup display this summer. There were suddenly questions being asked as to whether or not Costa would be a success, concerns not helped by the performances of the last Spanish striker to arrive at Stamford Bridge under burden of a such monstrous price tag.
In fact, since Didier Drogba left England after winning the Champions League with them in 2012, Chelsea have looked remarkably threadbare in the striking department. Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba failed to impress Mourinho and subsequently, both were allowed to leave the club. Romelu Lukaku too was deemed surplus to requirements, much to the delight of Evertonians. In signing Costa, the ‘Special One’ hoped to finally find a permanent replacement for the Ivorian talisman.
Drogba then made a surprise return to London, meaning that Costa was in fact to become his teammate, rather than his replacement – in the short-term at least. According to Mourinho, Drogba was recruited from Galatasaray for ‘non-emotional’ reasons. Indeed the Chelsea manager’s quotes, after Frank Lampard netted against Chelsea for new club Manchester City, also echo his views that there is no place for sentiment in the Premier League. After the clash at the Etihad, he said:
“Frank Lampard is a Man City player, I don’t believe in stories of passion and heart; maybe I am too pragmatic in football.”
All Jose’s quotes have to be taken with a pinch of salt of course, but it does strengthen the argument that Drogba’s return is entirely for footballing reasons. This doesn’t necessarily mean exclusively on the pitch, though the belief in the Chelsea camp is that Drogba could play another three seasons, but in the future as an important part of the coaching staff.
There are many similarities between Costa and Drogba. Both are strong, powerful strikers who excel in the air, yet remain deceptively featherweight under challenges in dangerous positions. Both are revered by Chelsea fans, yet loathed by others. Both possess brute force and an impressive eye for goal; game winners feared by opposition defences up and down the country, yet have a penchant for theatrics bordering on the ridiculous.
Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions, his most recent being the header to take the Champions League final against Bayern Munich into extra-time. He has won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and the aforementioned Champions League trophy. He has twice taken home the Golden Boot prize in the Premier League, and has been voted Chelsea’s player of the year, and Player’s player of the year. Not a bad return on the £24 million invested in him back in 2004.
So, is there anything to suggest that Costa can’t emulate Drogba in the blue shirt of Chelsea? Well, the short answer is no.
Both players were of a similar age when they made their debut in England, so if Costa is persuaded to match Drogba’s residency at Chelsea, then there is no reason why he can’t equal, and even surpass the records set by Drogba.
Costa has nine goals in just seven Premier League matches for Chelsea, and has won the Man of the Match award on two occasions. He is thriving on the service provided by Oscar, Eden Hazard and Spanish teammate Cesc Fabregas; all this with rumours of the striker not being fully fit too. His passing completion rate is in the high seventies, and he even managed to find the net for Spain in the recent match against Luxembourg.
To say Costa’s doubters have been silenced is a ridiculous understatement, as thousands of fans the length and breadth of the country frantically scramble to shoehorn him into their fantasy football team.
It is unlikely that Costa will keep up these impressively high standards throughout the whole of the Premier League of course, but if he maintains them until at least February, then he might not have to.