Bayern Munich will be very happy with the flying start to the season they have enjoyed and they go into the international break in good morale having beaten Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in their last game (a dominant win without a centre-back in the starting XI). However, there will be one person who will be shaking in his boots and that’s none other than former UEFA Player of the Year, Franck Ribery.
The Frenchman hasn’t played a game for Bayern since their 7-0 drubbing of Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League last season and now his nights are probably sleepless because of a player from Shakhtar who joined Bayern Munich in the summer – Douglas Costa.
Costa signed for Bayern in a €30m deal to replace Xherdan Shaqiri – a prodigy who failed to live up to the reputation. But unlike the Swiss International, Costa had no trouble fitting into the Bayern squad and seamlessly slotted into the first eleven from the offset.
It is rumoured that Bayern wanted to choose between Raheem Sterling and the Brazilian. But the former’s hefty price tag put the Bavarians off. Instead, they landed the Shakhtar midfielder for less than half the price of the 20-year-old Englishman.
Costa has already impressed for Bayern Munich
When Bayern signed Costa, it raised many eyebrows. But he must have put any lingering doubts to rest with his on field performances. His manager Pep Guardiola was also full of praise for the winger.
"Everyone asked before: 'What does Bayern want with Douglas Costa?' Now he's showing he's got the quality to play for this club," Guardiola said, according to ESPN.
What makes his performance even more remarkable is the fact that he has been playing on the left wing when he has predominantly played on the right previously. This stems from the fact that Arjen Robben plays down the right wing and is virtually irreplaceable at the moment. However, Costa has been unperturbed by this shift in position.
In his first Bundesliga game, he showed what he was capable of by flashing several low crosses into the box. He combined well with David Alaba down the left and Bayern’s first goal came from a free kick that was won by Costa after he was clipped following a brilliant run in which he beat three players.
He was involved heavily in Bayern’s attacks of which the one that led to the team’s third goal on the night was mesmerizing. Costa sprinted on to a pass that should have gone out of play, and then ran by the byline, finally crossing to Muller with the outside of his left foot. The German forward duly buried the chance and Costa capped off an incredible league debut with a goal of his own, which was reminiscent of Robben’s curling efforts.
The 24-year-old has played three Bundesliga games for the Bavarians so far and has scored one goal and provided two assists in those games. He has also provided 5 key passes and created seven chances in these games while managing to maintain a pass completion percentage of 81.4%.
Costa’s contribution cannot be explained by a few stats alone. His dribbling, his work rate and tenacity when his team is not in possession, his skills, his crossing have all come as a welcome addition to Bayern’s artillery. He is very difficult to mark and has been taking on and beating full backs at ease in the games he has played so far.
This often means that he draws an extra man towards him when he is on the ball and frees up space for the other dangerous players in his side. In fact, he is among the top 3 dribblers in Europe, averaging 5.3 dribbles per game.
Is Costa one for Bayern’s future?
Costa has been able to fit into the Bayern squad instantly and have made many forget about Ribery’s absence, and that’s exactly what Bayern needed. Ribery and Robben are on the wrong side of 30 and, considering the former’s recent injury problems, it was high time Bayern found someone who could take the torch from one of them and it seems like Costa fits the description perfectly.
Aged just 24, Costa can easily become as influential as Robben and Ribery are for the club. The timing of the transfer is also perfect as Ribery’s injury gives Costa some playing time and he can learn and develop a lot while training with the other senior players.
Of course, he has only played a few games so far, but the first impressions are always the best. Costa’s abilities will be put to bigger tests when they play in the Champions League and when Ribery returns from his injury. It will be interesting to see who Guardiola relies on then.
Last season, Bayern were troubled in the Champions League semi-final after injuries to the team’s main wingers. This reduced the directness in their attack and having someone like Costa can alleviate the problem to a huge extent.
It might be too early to conclude that Costa has been the best summer signing after just a handful of games, but the Brazilian’s performance so far makes it difficult to think of another name. Costa has warranted a man of the match award in all the matches he has played for Bayern so far which includes a Super Cup defeat to Wolfsburg.
Honestly speaking, it is difficult to think of any other player from any of Europe’s top 5 leagues who has had the same level of impact as Douglas Costa has had with Bayern Munich at the start of the season.