Diego Costa's in a bit of funk. No goals in over a month, though because of his suspension, it's only been four games for him personally. But he's looked a bit out of sorts in general since his return and Chelsea's goal-output has, unsurprisingly, suffered right along. Not the best signs ahead of Sunday's League Cup final.
With just a few days to go until that Wembley showdown, the pre-match build-up is starting in earnest. Here's one from Sky on Diego, called "Diego Costa's rapid rise: from limited loanee to Chelsea's prolific goalscorer." Limited? Ouch. But what really caught my eye were the quotes from a former manager on Diego. They're presented as timeless -- turns out they're from last season, or perhaps from even before -- and that's fine by me.
So, the same season that Chelsea last won the Premier League -- it only feels like a lifetime ago -- Diego Costa, at the time presumably the world's oldest-looking 21-year-old, was off somewhere in northwest Spain, playing for Real Valladolid. He was only there for that one season; Atlético exercised their buyback clause to use him as backup to Diego Forlán and Sergio Agüero. But it seems that his 10 months in Valladolid, which included a 5-month scoreless streak, made a big enough impression on then manager José Luis Mendilibar.
"He is half a team on his own at times. He has this capacity to play up front on his own and occupy more than one opposing defender. Strikers need a little nastiness. It's important that he doesn't lose that because it is a big part of his game."
"Fans look at the goals-scored columns but coaches look at what kind of goals a striker scores. And Costa is one of those players who scores the opening goal that breaks the opposition down or the only goal of a tough 1-0 win."
-Jose Luis Mendilibar; source: Sky
Mendilibar may have gotten the sack halfway through the season, perhaps in part thanks to Costa cooling down after a hot start, and Valladolid may have ended up getting relegated, but Costa's best qualities were evident even back then. We're going to need those same qualities to shine on Sunday.
Incidentally, Costa's teammate at Valladolid was a certain Asier Del Horno, on one of the final stops in his injury-riddled career. Chelsea connections everywhere!