Liverpool's No. 1 January Transfer Target: Atletico De Madrid's Diego Costa

Richard MorganContributor ISeptember 3, 2013

Could Costa turn his back on Atletico to join Liverpool in January?
Could Costa turn his back on Atletico to join Liverpool in January?Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Liverpool have just concluded a highly productive summer in the transfer market, however, the Reds were unsuccessful in their attempts to bring a marquee signing to Anfield and this needs to be readdressed in January by returning to Atletico de Madrid to capture striker Diego Costa.

Manager Brendan Rodgers made no secret of his desire to land a word-class centre forward during the close season as he prepared for what seemed to be the inevitable departure of unsettled Uruguay international Luis Suarez.

However, despite Suarez’s subsequent U-turn following the collapse of his expected move to Arsenal last month, the Northern Irishman and the club are not naïve enough to think that this transfer saga has now finally been put to bed.

No, “El Pistolero” may have apologised to his team-mates and Rodgers for his conduct throughout the whole affair, but come the turn of the year, you can be sure that rumours of the forward’s desire to quit the Reds will once again resurface.

And even if Liverpool do manage to once again keep hold of their star man in the 2014 January transfer window, unless the club somehow manage to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League come next May, then they have next to no hope of Suarez remaining on Merseyside next summer.

All of which means that Rodgers and Liverpool’s American owners, the Fenway Sports Group (FSG), must push the boat out in the new year in order to convince Atletico and Costa himself that a move to Anfield is in both their best interests.

The Reds came close to buying the Brazil international in August after triggering the £21.8 million release clause in Costa’s contract at the Vincente Calderon, only for the Liga outfit to then refuse to sanction his departure from the Spanish capital, with the 25-year-old having since renewed his deal with Atleti until 2018.

However, Atletico boss Diego Simeone did hint after signing front men David Villa and Leo Baptistao from Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano respectively in July that he may now be prepared to allow the Brazilian to leave the club.

And the Liga high flyers have also never been afraid to cash in on their prize South American assets over the years in order to help pay off their mounting debts and rebuild the team, as we saw just this summer with Radamel Falcao’s 60m euros move to Monaco.

Meanwhile, from Liverpool’s perspective, FSG have clearly been prepared to back Rodgers’ judgement in the transfer market during the close season by giving him the necessary funds to try and bring a marquee signing to Anfield.

Unfortunately, though, the Merseyside giants came off second best in their efforts to conclude big-money deals for both Shakhtar Donetsk’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anzhi Makhachkala’s Willian.

But, with Rodgers having only spent a net amount of £22.5m since the end of last season on new recruits, FSG still have money in reserve to sign a star player in the January transfer window, especially if the Reds continue their impressive early-season league form and remain in contention for a place in the UEFA Champions League come the turn of the year.

"They have to be of the right quality, that's the bottom line," said Rodgers last month when outlining just what he was looking for when it came to making top-level signings.

He added "We've got money to spend on getting that quality in, but if it's not available I won't waste it for the sake of bringing a player in.”

However, Atleti’s newly capped Brazil international has the “quality” Rodgers is after, with the Northern Irishman having told his bosses from across the Pond that he wanted the front man at Anfield this season even if Suarez was staying at the club.

And that is because to break back into the Premier League’s top four, Liverpool still need greater attacking options, despite the fact striker Daniel Sturridge has begun the new campaign in eye-catching form with five goals in his first four matches.

Now, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson always used to make a great play about having four top-class forwards to call upon while in charge at Old Trafford. And with the Reds having just allowed attacker Fabio Borini to join Sunderland on a season-long loan, added to the continuing fitness doubts surrounding Sturridge’s thigh, you can see just how quickly this could develop into a problem area for Rodgers going forward.

Which is why FSG must push the boat out financially in January to test Atletico’s resolve to really keep hold of Costa, a player who would add another dimension to Liverpool’s forward line at Anfield.

For one thing, Costa is versatile enough to operate in a number of different roles up front, whether that be wide on the right in a 4-3-3, in the “hole” playing off a central striker, as a lone front man, or even simply alongside a fellow forward in a more conventional looking 4-4-2 formation.

The Brazilian, capped twice already by A Selecao boss Luiz Felipe Scolari since making his debut for the five-time world champions back in March, would also bring a direct style to Liverpool’s attacking play that has often been missing under Rodgers, especially in Suarez’s recent absence from the team.

And while this late developer of a player may have picked up an incredible 59 yellow cards and seven red cards in just 160 matches during his time in Spain, the hot-headed Costa more than makes up for those disciplinary blemishes by bringing a powerful presence to his side’s attacking game.

But it is goals that Rodgers and FSG are after, and while some critics have been quick to label Costa a one-season wonder after netting 20 times in only 44 games for Atletico in the previous campaign, including 10 strikes in 31 La Liga outings, the striker’s three in three league matches already at the start of the 2013/14 season prove this is a prolific marksmen that Liverpool really should break the bank to sign in January.