Diego Costa is perhaps the single-most controversial figure in world football barring Jose Mourinho. Other than Chelsea fans, nobody really likes his sheer existence. Even some Chelsea fans don’t like him when he gets bogged down into ruffling the feathers of opposition defenders rather than focusing on scoring goals—like he was in the short period before the Spurs game in the F.A. Cup.
But, once more, he’s back into his groove, with a commanding performance against the Saints immediately after the Spurs victory. His willingness to work for the team has been a constant throughout this campaign, something that Antonio Conte has routinely praised him for.
Conte praises Diego Costa's work-rate and describes the way he is playing as 'fantastic'. #CFC
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 11, 2016
And that selflessness, combined with his ability to dictate the outcome of matches single-handedly, means that while Hazard and Kante will rightfully get the accolades come the end of the year, he’s been the person that’s had the most impact on Chelsea’s season thus far. In fact, according to a report on Metro, Chelsea would be as far down as fifth on the second of January without Costa’s goals.
So, before we venture any further, here is an obligatory gif:
His form during the early part of the season is what solely kept Chelsea’s title charge going when the team’s other stars weren’t producing the goods on a consistent basis. Although he’s since quieted down a bit, his importance to the team remains the same because of the simple, yet sometimes overlooked reason that he’s much more than just goals and assists. His running off the ball to create space for his teammates, him leading the press, and him holding the ball up when his team need him to under tight scenarios are all attributes that make him the world-class striker that he is. Although on his less memorable days he does tend to drift off into quibbles with the odd defender that he doesn’t like, he’s actually quite reliable even then. He’s never been sent off in a game for Chelsea in any of the major competitions, so you could say that he’s good at treading the line.
Regardless, his value to Chelsea circumvents around him being himself. Costa’s personality makes him a fearsome striker to play against. It is also something that makes him unique. Nobody else, other than perhaps Luis Suarez (interestingly enough, they literally share some weird traits), has a similar personality to the Brazil-born Spain international. Costa’s winning mentality (also unparalleled, I’d say) combined with his ability to dictate the outcome of matches on his own makes him invaluable. And this is why Chelsea cannot afford to lose him this summer. Sure, Morata is a world-class option. However, the Spanish international has never played in the Premier League, and would be better suited to playing alongside Costa, if his Juve days are a reference to go by. The other candidates, Lukaku and Belotti, are unconvincing at best; especially as they remain unproven in a big club scenario, something that Morata does have.
Costa’s contributions this season deserve far more recognition than the constant appraisals he gets from Conte. If he does depart, his absence will weaken Chelsea, no matter who they replace him with. Simply put, there isn’t another Diego Costa.