Jose Mourinho’s claims of being hamstrung by a lack of firepower since he returned to Chelsea last summer will hold little weight next season. The Chelsea boss looks to have finally got the striker he craved, with the Blues having agreed a £32 million deal to sign Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa, according to Sky Sports sources.
The Brazilian-born Spain international has been linked to Chelsea for several months, and it appears that the transfer will be officially announced in early June. That will be after Costa attempts to fire his club to both the La Liga title in a final-day decider against Barcelona next Saturday and then the Champions League crown when Atletico meet rivals Real Madrid in the final in Lisbon the following week. With 36 goals to his name already this season, Costa has played a major part in Atletico’s incredible season.
And now Mourinho must be hoping that Costa can lead Chelsea to similar feats next season. The Portuguese has paid the price for putting all his eggs in Wayne Rooney’s basket last summer when attempting to capture a leading marksman after Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani had proven out of Chelsea’s price range.
Samuel Eto’o arrived on a free transfer, and a hefty salary, and has been the pick of Chelsea’s strikers, but he was not the player required. Chelsea have relied far too heavily on the pace of their attacking midfielders on the counter-attack this season, meaning that when either the space was denied them to break at pace, or the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian were off their game, Chelsea had very little to offer going forward. The losses that cost them the Premier League title came against Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland, all of whom were able to sit back and frustrate Chelsea. The same was in large part true in Chelsea’s exit in the Champions League at the hands of Costa’s current club in the semifinals.
Mourinho deployed similar tactics in his first spell at Stamford Bridge, of course, to, largely, success. One of the key differences between then and now, however, was the presence of Didier Drogba, a player capable of being a true penalty-box presence and allowing Chelsea to go direct. In Diego Costa it is hard not to see the resemblances with the legendary Ivorian.
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Like Drogba, Costa did not come to prominence until later in his career than most top players do in the modern game. Costa did not get into double figures in goals in the top flight until two years ago when aged 23 and on loan at Rayo Vallecano. This is only his second season as a regular for Atletico, and the first campaign in which he has scored more than 10 league goals. With a player without a record of having delivered the goods consistently over a number of years, there is an inherent risk involved in committing such large sums of money as Chelsea appear to have done.
But there is certainly reason to believe that Costa will turn out as shrewd an investment as Drogba did 10 years ago. Like Drogba, is more than just a goalscorer. He occupies defenders for the full 90 minutes, a thorn in the side of the opposition with his aggressive physicality, technical ability and gamesmanship. Certainly Costa will fit smoothly into Mourinho’s ethos of winning at almost all costs. He also will have no trouble adapting to Mourinho’s desire to have every player put the team first and, like Drogba, will also contribute considerably when the team is without the ball. Chelsea’s first big signing of the summer offers plenty of hope that Mourinho’s second season back at Stamford Bridge will not end trophyless.