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Opinion: Diego Costa's fantastic return to Atletico Madrid

"I'm in much better shape than when I arrived, I've prepared well and worked hard and I'm ready to help the team and score goals," Costa said. Photograph:( Reuters )

Australia Jan 10, 2018, 12.34 PM (IST) Edward Stratmann

After scoring on his return to Atletico Madrid vs. Lleida Esportiu last Wednesday, Diego Costa couldn't hide his excitement about being back at his former club, where he achieved great things in his initial three-season stint, including winning the 2013/2014 La Liga title and a Copa del Rey, before moving to Chelsea.


“Now I am very happy because I feel like a footballer again," gleamed Costa. “It is great for me to play for Atletico Madrid again, the club is very important to me and I am very happy with this.


“I could not have asked for anything more on my second debut, to be back playing again and to have scored a goal is fantastic.”


Courtesy their transfer ban, Costa was made to wait to make his move to Los Rojiblancos, despite the deal being agreed in the summer. To add to this, the man fell out of favour with Antonio Conte at Chelsea, which subsequently saw him frozen out of this term. The man, however, has certainly been making up for the lost time. Bagging another goal, this time in the league against Getafe, saw him emphatically reannounce himself to the diehard Atleti fans, who are loving every minute of his return.


Although a silly, yet not entirely unsurprising red card, that occurred when he picked up a second yellow for jumping into the crowd to celebrate his goal, meant his time afield ended after 68 minutes, the two-time Premier League champion still put in an extremely impressive shift. Back to lead the line for his beloved side, the 29-year-old exhibited so many of the attributes that make him such a special player. 


The best place to start came in the form of his wonderfully timed, angled and directed runs in behind the Getafe backline, as this aspect of his game repeatedly allowed him to get into advantageous scenarios. Forever scanning and observing his surroundings, the burly hitman was always alert when a nearby defender was drawn out of position to mark his strike partner, usually Antoine Griezmann, or Atleti's customarily indented wingers in Angel Correa and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco. 


Once a defender opted to move, Costa would cleverly exploit the space they vacated by making clever vertical and darting diagonal runs into the now unoccupied space. While his incisive ventures weren't always rewarded, time and time again he breached the Getafe defence using his aptitude in this regard. 


Indeed, his well-taken goal served as a testament to his quality here, for his crafty blindside run enabled him to get into a fantastic position to tuck away Sime Vrsaljko's precise cross.


Costa's subtle interchanges of position with his fellow attackers caused additional headaches for the visitors; they were confronted with challenging decisions on who to mark, whether to hold their position or if they should remain put. 


Positively, his relationships with his colleagues in the final third also showed encouraging signs, as they didn't step on each other's toes, instead adhered astutely to Diego Simeone's positional demands to remain well spaced to give their team offensive balance.


One downside of his performance came from his tardiness in possession. At times, his control, touch and decision-making let him down. This was highlighted by the fact he only completed 50% of his attempted passes and was dispossessed six times. It must be noted that these statistics aren't helped by Costa usually receiving the ball in highly populated areas of the pitch under pressure. 


Costa did, however, also stamp his mark on the fixture via his excellence in aerial duels and his relentless fight, spirit and physicality. His attacking numbers are aptly depicted in his strong body of work, as he completed three successful dribbles, unleashed three shots, created one clear-cut chance and won two headers.


When speaking after the match, it's clear to see how delighted his tactically astute manager is to have him back again, explaining: "Diego brings us intensity, directness, more strength in attack, and above all he transmits fear. You can feel that and see that."


Even though Costa's reintegration back into life at his old club is still in its infancy and he is returning to action after a lengthy layoff, the early signs bode extremely well that he'll have no troubles picking up where he left off from when he first departed his beloved Atletico back in 2014.


Working under the tutelage of his old mate Simeone and in such familiar confines, there's no doubt Atletico Madrid is the perfect match for the combative and supremely talented Costa.


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).

Edward Stratmann

Edward Stratmann is freelance football writer who writes regularly about the on-field aspects of the game, with a particular focus on tactics and analysis.