Not many clubs are in a position to turn their noses up at a chance to sign someone of Diego Costa’s ilk for nothing – but they’ll sure be plenty steering well clear.
For Costa is a conundrum, and signing him is like deciding to place a large stake on red or black at the Roulette table.
The benefits are obvious but there is an element of risk attached, and the outcome could go either way.
Diego Simeone has seen his contract at Atletico Madrid terminated, making him a free agent
Mikel Arteta wants to bolster his attacking force at Arsenal and is considering signing Costa
At the moment it is Arsenal who are weighing up whether to gamble or not.
After the start to the season they’ve had, perhaps Mikel Arteta feels like they’ve got nothing to lose but he’ll have to be prepared to take the yin with the yang.
A few years back the decision would have been easier, but Costa is 32 now and not the striker he once was.
If he was, Atletico Madrid would have never decided to terminate his contract early.
But there is still enough left in the tank to have Arsenal mulling over a move for him.
Arsenal will be well aware of what they’re getting with Costa, who spent three successful years on these shores with Chelsea. Naturally, it came to an abrupt and acrimonious end.
During his time at Chelsea, Costa had numerous clashes with manager Jose Mourinho
It felt like Costa was involved in a bust up every game while many opposing fans hated him
But for all of Costa’s goals – 58 to be exact – there were plenty of wild and controversial moments which has brought his professionalism into question.
Diego Costa’s career
2006 Braga 0 (0)
2006 → Penafiel (loan) 13 (5)
2007–2009 Atlético Madrid 0 (0)
2007 → Braga (loan) 6 (0)
2007–2008 → Celta (loan) 30 (6)
2008–2009 → Albacete (loan) 35 (10)
2009–2010 Valladolid 34 (8)
2010–2014 Atletico Madrid 94 (43)
2012 → Rayo Vallecano (loan) 16 (10)
2014–2017 Chelsea 89 (52)
2018–2020 Atletico Madrid 61 (12)
From on-the-pitch rows and throwing bibs at Jose Mourinho to telling Antonio Conte he wanted to leave on his first day in charge and abducting him during a press conference.
And there have been many more similar incidents like those throughout Costa’s career.
When he first joined Atletico in 2007, he was shipped out on loan every season until he was sold to Real Valladolid for one year and then re-signed in 2010.
Keen to prove his stripes, of course Costa arrived four days late and overweight for pre-season. When asked for an explanation, Costa said: ‘Blame my mum for being too good of a cook.’
It is that candid side of Costa which endeared him to former Celta Vigo boss Alejandro Menendez during his loan spell at the club.
Menendez once said: ‘If he turned up late, he wouldn’t give you a load of bull****. None of the usual, “the alarm didn’t go off” rubbish.
‘Instead, he’d tell me he’d been up most of the night playing PlayStation. It made me really warm to him.’
But not everyone takes to Costa. In England, he was one of the most hated players and was regularly the target of scorn from opposition fans – though one suspects he would’ve been welcomed with open arms if he was playing for their clubs.
While it felt like every other game that Costa was involved in some kind of bust up or another.
He kidnapped Antonio Conte in one of the more harmless, mad moments of his time at Chelsea
The Spanish striker’s Chelsea career was ended abruptly after a text message from Conte
But for all the frustration he can bring, there is also something alluring about Costa. He is almost the naughty kid in the class that many can’t help but like.
He can be problematic but a valuable member of a squad too. Costa has an aggressive and determined personality and is the type of person who wouldn’t shy away if a team-mate is in need.
On his first day at Chelsea, he told John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill: ‘I go to war. You come with me.’
At Atletico he was well liked and the entertainer in the group. His former team-mate Paulo Assuncao once claimed when they would stay in hotels for away matches, Costa would sneak into unsuspecting club doctors’ rooms and kidnap them and lock coaching staff in the sauna and fill the jacuzzi with shaving foam.
Remembering another one of the Costa’s legendary gags, Assuncao said: ‘Diego got a big bottle of water and put it on top of a newspaper showing a picture of a topless model.
The 32-year-old has more often than not been a popular member in the teams he’s played for
He scored twice this season despite a lack of game time and clearly still has something to offer
‘He called Maniche over and said, “If you look through the bottle you’ll see a naked woman”. Just as Maniche was bending over to take a look Diego squeezed the bottle and soaked him, saying, “How on earth do you expect the poor girl to take her clothes off if you’re watching?”‘
So that is what Arsenal may be letting themselves in for. But on his day, Costa can be a match winner.
These days, they are less frequent but Costa has shown enough in his seven games for Atletico this season that he can still contribute at the top level.
Despite a lack of game time, the striker has still averaged almost a goal every 102 minutes and goals is what Arsenal are lacking at the minute.
Arteta’s men have managed just 15 in the Premier League all season – only the bottom four have fewer – so it’s not hard to understand why the Arsenal boss is considering trying to sign Costa.
It may well turn out to be a masterstroke if they can get a deal over the line. Equally, signing him could transpire be a bullet they wished they dodged.
Given their recent recruitment, Arsenal can ill-afford more misses. So they must think long and hard whether it’s worth laying down their chips or walking away from the table.