Why Diego Costa and Atletico Madrid belong together
Although Diego Simeone will say the contrary, there is a fire that burned out long ago at Atletico Madrid that needs to be rekindled.
Attempts to do so have so far, all failed. That snarling, smart Atleti of years ago no longer exists, but now they have the best chance they’ve ever had since then to burn once again. Maybe even this time, it could be brighter.
Diego Costa’s return to the club is long overdue. It’s one that Simeone personally petitioned for over the last few years. Even when the early murmurings of Costa’s discontent in London emerged in his first season with Chelsea, there was a desire on Simeone’s part to engineer a reunion. For varying reasons from Chelsea holding tightly onto Costa, to Atleti’s inability to make a deal, it didn’t happen. Until now.
It couldn't come at a better time either, as Atleti embark on a new chapter in this Simeone era. Fed up with handed second rate strikers such as Raul Jimenez, Jackson Martinez and Kevin Gameiro, the Argentinean coach wanted the real deal back -- and has finally got his wish as Costa sealed his comeback this past week.
With it, Simeone can now finally concoct a plan that is packed with substance, and above all, belief. He’s no longer having to make do, and as well as having Costa back, this time he’ll be able to pair him with the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Saul in Aleti’s first team. Players who have improved considerably and can work alongside and for Costa in this set-up.
In pure goalscoring terms, Costa brings something they haven’t got at Atleti -- a pure, clinical striker who doesn’t second guess himself in front of the goal. He’ll provide a genuine outlet in attack, one that everyone can believe in. Costa scored 64 goals in 135 games for the club in his first spell and that tally will no doubt be added to considerably.
But it’s off the field, in the dressing room, that Costa could provide his biggest impact. Atleti have suffered heartbreak in the Champions League over the space of a few years. The sort of blows teams never recover from. Atleti have had to do so quickly, and go again. Most of the time they have but there has been a feeling that they’ve run on fumes, rather than cooking on gas. The dressing room must be a fragile place right now, and when things aren’t particularly great they maybe question themselves more than most would. They’ve taken such emotional hits that it’s inevitable.
Costa can lift that gloom and sick feeling that still lingers at Atleti. While they huff and puff how they used to, they don’t blow houses down like they used to. Costa’s a wolf who can help them get back that feeling of invincibility, and put on teams that fear like they used to. Atleti remain difficult to play against, but they aren’t as lethal or cutthroat as they were in their pomp. All is not lost either and while some say it could be too late, there remains a group of players at the club who formed the same spine when Costa was previously with Atleti.
Gabi, Filipe Luis, Juanfran and Koke for instance. They have done their best to drive Atleti on but even for all their energy and enthusiasm, they need support. Costa arrives to be exactly that and more. He can boost everyone and from the first day he walks through the door at their Majadahonda training facilities, everyone will be feeding off the buzz the 28-year-old provides.
“Costa transmits a strength which has a contagious effect on the rest of the group. He gives everything, but he has to learn to control himself. People say he plays at the limit - curiously, they also said that about me. He gets better every day. I love watching the diagonal runs he makes and his directness towards the opposing goal, “ said Simeone when speaking to the BBC several years ago.
The one he once lost has returned. Others came but you don’t forget your first love, and Simeone really loves Costa. The feeling is of course, mutual. Two fighters, there is a bond, a great respect.
In their new stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano, Atleti are embarking on a new adventure. To make sure it’s a successful one they need something from their past to regenerate them or risk encountering more heartbreak. And this time, they might not be able to put the pieces back together again…