Shortly after Chelsea FC wrapped up their end of season Player of the Year awards ceremony at Stamford Bridge last night, news emerged today that the Blues have agreed in principle to a 32 million pound deal to sign Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa.
The fee meets the ‘buyout clause’ in the Brazil-born, Spain international forward’s contract at the Vicente Calderon, which is due to expire in June 2018, and Costa is believed to have been offered a salary in the region of 150,000 pounds a week which would more than triple his current annual earnings.
Throughout the Premier League campaign that concluded on Sunday, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has persistently lamented the profligacy of his current crop of strikers. Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o managed to find the net on only 19 occasions between them in a Blues haul of 71 goals, by contrast Liverpool scored 101 times with eventual champions Manchester City going one better.
Eden Hazard was the Blues top marksman with 14 goals, and on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku added one more to Hazard’s tally playing for Everton this season but Mourinho has made no secret of his ambition to bring a proven world class striker to the Bridge.
Costa has scored 27 times in 33 La Liga appearances for Atletico during the course of this campaign, and the 25-year-old has been a pivotal figure in Los Rojiblancos outstanding season. It's a campaign which sees the Madrid club top the league with one game remaining, against title rivals Barcelona, in addition to reaching the final of the Champions League were they will meet city rivals Real in Lisbon on May 24th.
Currently battling to be fit for both games following a hamstring injury, Costa will be formally announced as a Chelsea player once Atletico’s season is concluded with Mourinho keen to get the deal done prior to the World Cup kicking off on June 12th.
Rumours about a possible move to Chelsea first surfaced during the January transfer window, but at the time Atleti sporting director Jose Luis Perez Caminero suggested that Costa was happy at the Vicente Calderon. However, unsavoury events which included the striker subjected to xenophobic chants by supporters of Valencia in a Copa Del Rey game at the Mestalla that month may have changed things from the player’s perspective given it was not the first time he had been the subject of such vitriolic abuse.
Costa, who started out his career playing street football in his native Brazil, arrived in Europe in February 2006 when he signed a deal to play with Portuguese club SC Braga, but the youngster failed to make an impression and was soon on his way to Atletico in a small-time cash plus rights deal which saw him initially loaned back to Braga, and further loan deals followed to Celta and Albacete.
In July 2009, Costa was sold to Real Valladolid with a buyback clause that was activated by Atletico at the end of the following season during which the player scored 8 times in 34 appearances for the Castile and Leon outfit. Back in Madrid, Costa found himself cast in the role of understudy to Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan and a serious knee injury in July 2011 further hampered his chances of making progress at the Calderon. A successful loan spell at Rayo Vallecano followed and, installed as the main Atleti striker for the 2012-13 season, Costa repaid the faith put in him by manager Diego Simeone returning a haul of 20 goals from 40 appearances.
His impressive form which in August 2013 prompted the attention of Liverpool last summer, who were reputed to have tabled a €25 million bid in August for the player with the Reds also offering to double his wages. Costa elected to remain in Spain where he has enjoyed a prolific campaign that included scoring a penalty against Chelsea in the 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge which sealed Atletico's passage to the Champions League final.
On the international stage, Costa had represented Brazil twice in friendly internationals in 2013 before the Spanish Football Federation made a request to FIFA to call up the player, now a Spanish citizen, to the Spain national team last September. Costa made his debut in March this year in a friendly against Italy and will be a key part of national coach Vicente del Bosque’s squad when Spain bid to defend the World Cup in his native Brazil next month.
A successful tournament would likely have seen Costa’s currency rise, and in securing his services early Chelsea have avoided a potential bidding war for the player. Mourinho has his man, and with Torres seemingly destined to depart, Blues supporters will be excited at the prospect of seeing Costa wearing the traditional No. 9 shirt associated with a center forward.
Can Costa fill the golden boots of the legendary Didier Drogba? Time will tell. But if recent performances are anything to go by, £32 million could be viewed as money well spent 12 months from now should Chelsea add silverware to the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet.