04 May 2014

Should Arsenal bid £31m for Diego Costa?

And so it begins. With three matches left on the schedule and two weeks left in the season, it is time to start kicking tires and assessing options. Champions League play is assured (we're into the playoff-round, for what that's worth). With the World Cup looming, there's likely to be a compressed, claustrophobic transfer-window, what with players vying for spots in their national teams and managers wanting to make the most of the time they have. Despite Arsène's protestations to the contrary, we'd be fools to pass up a chance to sign Costa, as in-form a striker as is likely to be available this summer. If only it were that simple...

Diego? Is that really you?
First, the financials. Apparently, Costa has a £31m release clause in his contract. Take that with a grain of salt. We've proven that we're ready to take that plunge, whether it was with our pursuit of Luis Suarez or Higuain or with our signing of Özil. We may have upwards of £100m to throw around, but keep that figure under your hat as negotiations fluctuate according to what sellers think you can spend. Beyond that, the man would likely command something like £150k per week, if not more. Again, this is something we can afford—especially if his future performance matches his current one, leading to more wins in the Champions League and deeper progression to boot. Would this, however, distort the wage-structure at Arsenal? Would current squad-members come to resent the imbalance? After all, long-serving members such as Walcott and Wilshere would be surpassed, if not eclipsed, by such wages. However, if the man can bed in and deliver, I'd wager the difference in salaries that they'd be understanding enough to see it as the cost of business.

Next, the competition. Chelsea. Pockets deep enough to lose one's soul in. Mourinho has been vocal in his dissatisfaction with his options. I'm not sure where the wisdom there comes from—strikers can be notoriously vain and fragile beasts, possessing massive egos in need of constant massage—and the idea that insulting Torres or Ba (and perhaps Eto'o) will motivate them boggles the mind. They're in the squad. They're your only options. Why not talk them up, if only a little, to see what happens? Sadly, money talks. Loudly. Mourinho, as I've suggested before, is a bit like Francis from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. For those not in the know, Francis (like Mourinho) is spoiled and petulant—and those are his positive qualities. That said, it's already been widely and frequently reported that Mourinho is adamant on signing Costa ("adamant" here meaning that Mourinho will throw himself to the floor, kicking and screaming, if he doesn't get what he wants). Given his voracious appetite for spending for the sake of spending, his short-term approach to winning, and his inability to deliver silverware without the best that money can buy, we'll likely face a fierce bidding war for Costa's services. So much the better. If we bid for Costa, we drive up his price. If we drive up his price, Chelsea pays through Mourinho's nose. Manchester City have already run afoul of FFP. Chelsea can't be too far behind. We owe it to ourselves to enter the bidding over Costa, if only to inflate the final fee, thereby handicapping Chelsea in other areas (if not signing the player outright).

Last, the player himself. Costa, as we all know, has been one of the most lethal finishers in Europe. This season, he has helped Atletico surge to the top of La Liga with 27 goals and five assists in 33 appearances. Not to be overlooked, he delivered ten goals and 12 assists in 31 league appearances last season, playing behind or alongside Radamel Falcao. Falcao has moved on, and Costa has been more than up to the task of replacing his 28 goals and one assist in 34 league appearances. It's difficult, if not impossible, to argue against Costa's quality. Even if we take into account the more-liberal scoring of La Liga, he's shown that he can deliver the goods. He has contributed, via goals and assists, to 40% of Atletico's goals. For comparison, Ronaldo has contributed to 39% of Real Madrid's goals and Messi has contributed to 38% of Barcelona's. For those still casting a dubious eyebrow, Costa has converted one less penalty than Ronaldo or Messi.

Speaking of penalties, let's talk penalties. In Atletico's trip to Stamford Bridge, with the game knotted at 1-1, Costa was brought down by Eto'o. He stepped to take the penalty. Two minutes, a warning, a skirmish, and a yellow card later, he converted. In the interim, there was a ludicrous amount of ball-adjusting (which refers, of course, to the spherical object he would go on to blast home). Along the way, he showed the kind of cojones that winners so often possess. Knowing full-well that Chelsea were sizing him up for a transfer, he took his sweet time in setting up the ball before taking the spot-kick. That he converted to all but eliminate Chelsea from the Champions League suggests a pair made of only the finest brass that money can buy.

And so we come full circle. Can we get him at £31m? If not, how much higher should we be willing to go to get him? On one hand, the money we'd spend on him is money we can't spend on other needs. On the other hand, money we've spent on him might be money we don't need to spend on those other needs. Eggs, meet basket. Basket, I see you've met eggs...