As a player who was previously known more for his fiery temper and tendency to argue with referees than for his raw talent, Diego Costa’s rise to superstardom has been nothing short of phenomenal. In a short space of time not only has the Brazil-born forward established himself as one of the world’s most feared and prolific strikers, he has seemingly won the hearts of football fans across the globe.
Tasked with the job of replacing the seemingly irreplaceable Radamel Falcao, many tipped the 25-year-old to yet again slip into obscurity, with the purchase of compatriot David Villa a ‘panic-buy’ in order to find a quick-fix solution to the Colombian’s departure. However Costa has not only replaced Falcao as the Atletico Madrid’s top dog, but has usurped his former colleague and is leading Los Rojiblancos to a previously unforseen title charge.
It must be said, however, that his success did not come overnight. Having secured a dream move to Atletico as a budding 19-year-old, Costa was sent out on loan to several clubs, including a stint back at former side Braga. However, the club’s attempt to help the youngster gain experience was to no avail, and forward was later sold to Real Valladolid. After spending a season in Castille, he returned to Atletico. Only now are we beginning to witness the fruit of those stints away from his parent club.
This season alone, Costa has netted 27 times in 35 matches, and his 21 goals in La Liga have propelled his side to third, two points behind reigning champions Barcelona. Coincidently, Spain’s other strikers have failed to fire with their respective teams.
Robert Soldado has scored a disappointing six goals this season in England while Michu too has endured a sticky time with Swansea this term. Fernando Torres, despite flashes of brilliance, is still a shadow of his former self and Fernando Llorente has been inconsistent in the Serie A to date.
The only player capable of challenging Costa for a spot in Spain’s starting XI is Alvaro Negredo. But Negredo has often failed to fire on the international scene, so while Costa’s change in allegiance has caused controversy, it appears the player and his adopted country are a match made in heaven.
Despite a successful assault on the World Cup in 2010, Spain secured the crown in surprising fashion. La Roja, who were no longer able to rely on a previously prolific Torres, failed to impress in several of the matches, and in fairness, barely scraped past their opponents towards the latter stages of the tournament, with late winners their saviour on several occasions. It could be argued that Spain’s tiki-taka style of masked their attacking woes.
Costa, on the other hand, perfectly fits with Del Bosque’s tactics. His aggressive style of play, characterised by his powerful running at defenders, and physicality brings an added dimension to La Roja, previously absent from what was a smaller, less physical team. He also has the confidence of taking the ball on his own, often attempting to break through the defensive barrier of opponents and his finishing has vastly improved, making him Spain’s ideal package.
Despite his inexperience on the international stage, there is little doubt that Costa’s development over the years will leave him well equipped for his journey ahead.