• Analysis

Is Diego Costa a lost cause for Atletico Madrid?

Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid
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Believe it or not, Diego Costa’s days as one of Europe’s best strikers are seemingly over and now his Atletico Madrid future is in question.

Just a few years ago, nobody would’ve dared questioned Atletico star Diego Costa’s place among Europe’s best strikers.

The Brazilian-born forward, otherwise known as the “Tasmanian devil” in Spain, initially became renown for his physical play. He was, in fact, a selfless team player in his early days at Atletico often focusing on supporting Radamel Falcao instead of pursuing goals.

But the Colombian’s big-money move to AS Monaco in 2013 opened the door for Costa to become the main man.

And he found a common ally in manager Diego Simeone due to their love for aggressive football. It marked the beginning of a splendid partnership, which saw Costa become one of Europe’s most deadly strikers.

Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid
MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 16: Diego Simeone and Diego Costa of Atletico Madrid.

The Spain international repaid Simeone’s faith by firing in 36 goals in just 51 appearances to help Atletico famously beat Barcelona and Real Madrid to the 2013/14 La Liga title.

Sadly, though, Los Colchoneros fell at the final hurdle to city rivals Real Madrid in the Champions League final in a humiliating 4-1 defeat in Lisbon.

Then, to the shock of just about everybody, Costa left Simeone and Atletico behind for a €38m transfer to Chelsea.

The move to England certainly did raise a few eyebrows, but Costa excelled under Jose Mourinho and further cemented his place among Europe’s elite. He ended up scoring 58 goals in 120 appearances in his Blues career on route to two Premier League titles and an EFL Cup.

An ugly fall-out with Antonio Conte in 2017, however, spelled the end of the Spaniard’s time at Stamford Bridge.

He then spent around half a year on the sidelines after Conte banned him from even entering the Chelsea training ground.

The beginning of the end?

Since returning to Atletico in January 2018, though, Costa has looked a mere shadow of his former self. He’s only scored 14 goals in 58 games, and was seemingly content to play second-fiddle to Antoine Griezmann.

But the Frenchman’s €126m summer exit to Barcelona means Atletico need a new goalscorer. Unlike when Falcao left, however, Costa has been unable to step up and fill the void.

The 31-year-old is clearly going through a bad patch, with just two goals to his name in 14 appearances this season.

Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid
MADRID, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 21: Diego Costa of Atletico Madrid.

Wednesday’s 2-1 Champions League defeat to Bayer Leverkusen also saw Costa’s goal drought extended to five matches. However, like on many occasions already, Simeone stood by his struggling striker.

“It doesn’t seem fair to me to blame one player,” he told reporters in Germany.

“The one who is firstly responsible for the first half and for the team not responding is me because I can’t get the team to start with motivation.”

Simeone has a point – Costa is just one man in a team consisting of 11 players and a manager. Naturally, it is the coach’s responsibility to get the results and the other players must be held accountable as well.

And, for those who didn’t see last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Sevilla, Costa did actually get on the scoresheet before VAR ruled it out.

In fact, you could actually see the resigned look on Costa’s face while the officials reviewed. He knew what was coming, but still delivered a decent performance to help Atletico come back from a goal down.

What’s likely the main cause behind the former Chelsea man’s struggles is a lack of confidence.

While it’s unlikely he’ll ever be the same striker again, Costa could very well return to scoring form. He probably just needs to get that first goal to boost his confidence.

Therefore, the club must remain patient and back him during this difficult period.