Written by Gabriel Latinwo
You either admire him or hate him, there is no in between when it comes to Chelsea striker Diego Costa. Even before he set foot in English football, the Brazilian born Spanish forward has always divided opinion from his time at Atletico Madrid.
From stamping on Emre Can, to allegedly biting Gareth Barry to getting Arsenal defender and fellow Brazilian Gabriel sent off in a feisty encounter, Costa has repeatedly been the talk of the English footballing world over the last three seasons. Even though he remains a much loved player by the Stamford Bridge faithful, Costa duly remains a loathed villain by rival fans despite taking the league by storm since his arrival in England.
With Antonio Conte saying in his post-match presser after the FA Cup Final that Chelsea had to be cold whilst analysing their situation during the post season, no one envisaged he meant binning the clubs highest goal scorer for the last three seasons via a text message ; a testament to his proclaimed ruthlessness.
With his stay at the West London Club seemingly coming to an end, Costa’s impact on and off the pitch during the three seasons he has spent in England should not be underestimated nor overestimated. With Chelsea winning two league titles, and a League Cup over the same period, Costa has proved to be an integral part of the recent success enjoyed by the football club.
It is well documented that modern day strikers tend to be judged by the numbers they put up and rightly so, football has evolved over the years and has become a game dominated by numbers and (or) statistics. Scoring 58 goals in 119 appearances and assisting a further 24 across the same period, Diego Costa has always been a reliable front man for Chelsea despite his usual tantrums and the club’s frequent managerial changes.
However, Diego is not just a striker, there is a whole lot more to the Spaniards game than just putting the ball in the back of the net. Simply put, – Diego Costa is a defenders nightmare- a real handful indeed. Few strikers in the game can occupy an opposition’s back four like he does when on form, Nicolas Otamendi and the Manchester City defence can attest to this, as they were bullied by classic Diego during Chelsea’s 3-1 win at the Etihad enroute to the premier league title.
On the other hand, his relationship with Blues boss Antonio Conte has been somewhat love-hate. Reports of his desire to return to former club Atletico Madrid was well- documented by the media during Chelsea’s pre-season tour. Then in October, there was the on-pitch incident against Leicester City where he demanded to be substituted as the manager’s instructions from the sidelines were ‘’over the top’’.
The tipping point for Conte could be said to be the Spaniard’s desire to jump ship and head off to China for a huge payday in January whilst Chelsea were pursuing title glory. Even though Antonio Conte expertly put a lid on the debacle by claiming Costa had a back injury, news of a bumper offer from the Chinese Super League were widely reported by reliable journalists and outlets. In light of this controversy, I am not surprised with Conte’s decision to get rid of the Spaniard. A manager who has played under strict disciplinarians like Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi is unlikely to tolerate such disrespect with Conte stating during an interview with Sky Sports pundit Thierry Henry that he would rather KILL a player than keep one with a bad attitude.
Regardless, the task facing Chelsea right now is pretty straightforward but challenging, how do you replace a striker whose crucial goals set you up for a title challenge? It is without doubt that without Costa’s goals, Chelsea would not be defending champions heading into the 2017/18 season. Match winning goals against teams such as West Ham, Watford, Crystal Palace and West Brom to mention a few, in dying moments of games could hardly be replicated by the strikers who are being rumoured to replace Costa.
Furthermore, of all the strikers in the Premier League, Costa’s goals were the most valuable in terms of points won. His 20 league goals won Chelsea 15 points, compared to Harry Kane’s 29 league goals which won Tottenham 13 points or Romelu Lukaku (the most likely candidate to replace Costa) whose 25 league goals were worth 9 points to Everton’s campaign.
Even though this summer window feels like the right time to end his love story with the club, Costa fits Chelsea like a glove and finding an apt replacement in the current market will eventually prove to be more demanding and cumbersome than Antonio Conte or the Chelsea board have anticipated.
Written by Gabriel Latinwo