Who saw that coming, then? With very little fanfare, Chelsea marked the opening of the summer transfer window by slipping out the announcement of a new signing of Mr D. Costa from Atletico Madrid.
It’s the culmination of more than four months of gossip, rumour, hearsay and speculation. Reports that the signing was complete became pretty much a staple of the back pages in the English newspapers, while the Brazilian/Spanish striker apparently passed so many medicals that Chelsea’s doctors must have been clearing up on the overtime pay.
The only detail left to be cleared up is exactly how much this has cost the Blues. Chelsea says that have met the release clause in Costa’s contract, which informed reports suggest was set at some £32 million. In terms of salary, it’s likely he’ll be paid about £150,000 a week (or somewhere not far off £8 million a year). Assuming he’s given a 5-year contract, the overall financial hit amounts to some £72 million. This is likely to be clarified and confirmed over the next few days.
So what have Chelsea bought? First and foremost, a striker who banged in 36 goals in all competitions for Atletico Madrid last season, firing them to the Spanish title and the Champions League final. And if he hadn’t injured his hamstring just before that final, his parting gift to the Vicente Calderon stadium could well have been the European Cup.
He’s a fiery, ultra-competitive figure, strong, bullish and aggressive – quite the Mourinho type. He’s unlikely to be bullied off the ball as Fernando Torres can be, and he’s a great deal more skilful on the ball than Demba Ba. I’m not convinced he’s as good as some of the strikers Chelsea have been chasing over the last two years – Falcao and Cavani for example – but he is a distinct improvement on the club’s current crop.
On the downside, he has a nasty edge to his play that isn’t destined to make him popular with referees, opposition players and their fans – and may well cause embarrassment and inconvenience to Chelsea. He goes over easily when challenged, he carries on running feuds with defenders and isn’t averse to a sly kick or elbow when he thinks it’s called for, and he is quite eager to dispute decisions with the match officials when they don’t go his way.
Another thing – his scoring stats prior to this season are not that brilliant. In 2012/13 he hit 20 at less than a goal every 2 games, and only 10 in La Liga at a rate of 1 in every 3. His three previous seasons in the top tier brought him just 27 goals – not the strike rate of a top finisher.
In his defence, in 2012/13 he was not Atletico’s main striker – he was being played wide while Falcao occupied the centre. And the year before, he missed half a season with injury before hitting 10 in 16 games on loan with lowly Rayo Vallecano. The figures may not be quite as damning as they first appear.
Anyway, he’s Chelsea’s main man now, our new Drogba. Let’s hope he lives up to the billing.