Imagining a Barcelona Team with Atletico Madrid Striker Diego Costa in Attack

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IApril 8, 2014

Diego Costa would change the dynamic of Barcelona's play. For the better.
Diego Costa would change the dynamic of Barcelona's play. For the better.Clive Rose/Getty Images

A Barcelona attack with Diego Costa in-situ isn't as far-fetched as it might sound.

Whilst tiki-taka is far from moribund, the Catalans style of play has begun to evolve into something a little less poetic, but equally as effective.

Tata Martino has introduced subtle variations throughout his tenure and whilst there might be a question mark on his reign as a whole, the fact remains that to this point his record stands up well to that of his predecessors.

The variations that Tata is using in Barcelona's play would be ideally suited to Diego Costa.
The variations that Tata is using in Barcelona's play would be ideally suited to Diego Costa.David Ramos/Getty Images

Fans have come to accept that the long cross-field diagonal can be just as much a part of the Barca way as the shorter, sharper ball.

But whilst the style of play may be evolving, the evolution of squad personnel remains stagnant.

Apart from one or two exceptions, Barcelona generally recruit small, technically gifted players who are lacking two key components: physicality and height.

From an attacking perspective especially, it makes Barca very predictable.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was an interesting buy during the Pep Guardiola years precisely because it very definitely, and pretty dramatically, changed the dynamic of Barca’s team play. Barcelona now had a focal point to their attack. A big, strong target-man.

Zlatan Ibrahimovich was never going to work for Barcelona.
Zlatan Ibrahimovich was never going to work for Barcelona.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

There was opposition to the signing at the time. “It would never work at Barca” they said. Perhaps they were right.

However, the move largely failed because of the player’s own ego. Zlatan wanted Barcelona to revolve around Zlatan. Under a disciplinarian and team-player such as Pep, that was never going to work.

If you want to be a reference at Barca, then you have to work for it. Something that Ibra never really seemed inclined to do.

There is the crucial difference to another big, strong centre-forward who would be an excellent addition to the Blaugrana forward line.

Atletico Madrid’s Costa has all of the attributes of a modern-day centre-forward, yet he’s straight out of the old-school.

A raging bull of a target-man, there are a number of facets to his game that would be complimentary to that which Barca already have.

For example, there aren't too many centre-forwards in the European game able to hold the ball up as well as Costa.

Despite his considerable size, he has good feet for a big man, and you've little to no chance of shaking him off of the ball once he has received it to feet.

A decent football brain also keeps him a step ahead of his contemporaries.

He has fantastic and intelligent movement which is something else that marks him out from his peers. Not just a one-trick pony this. 

An eye for goal certainly, but the wherewithal and awareness to note what’s going on around him and utilise the same for the benefit of his own game, rather than an individual pursuit for glory.

For Costa, it is team first and foremost, individual second. Another golden reason why he would be a perfect fit for this Barcelona side.

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Used to playing a 4-3-3 at Atletico, there would be no need to fit a system around Costa, for he knows and plays that system well. Even a 4-5-1 and a lone target-man role would hold no fears.

The key difference in a Barca 4-3-3 would be the presence Costa brings to that area of the field. Although he has played wide left and right, and even behind the main striker, he has to be employed centrally for the Blaugrana to be able to utilise his range of skills to their fullest effect.

Very reminiscent of a Didier Drogba in his pomp, Costa is direct, aggressive and imposing. He can also be explosive from a standing start and once into his stride, is hugely difficult to shake off of the ball.

In short, he is an absolute nightmare for defenders to handle, other than man-handling him to the ground.

Crosses that rain in from Dani Alves in particular, a high ball in and around the penalty spot; manna from Heaven for the Spaniard. Back to goal, he is the perfect exponent of the knock down, bringing others readily into play.

Even the ball in behind doesn't present a problem because Costa is hardly a slouch when it comes to covering every blade of grass.

Diego Costa is precisely the sort of player that your everyday fan identifies with most readily. A real workhorse, it says everything about his other qualities that the suggestion is, in light of his recent injury, that Atleti will not be the same team without him.

They’ll certainly miss his goals. Hitting the back of the onion bag with alarming regularity has been Costa’s forte over the last couple of seasons.

Who can forget this one when working the left channel, latching onto a magnificent pass from Radamel Falcao, and out-pacing the Real Madrid defence to open the scoring in the 2013 Copa del Rey final:

He remains one of the hottest properties in Europe right now and his goals-to-shots ratio is incredible. His 25 goals in La Liga put him just a few shy of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez in the race for the Golden Shoe, per Euro Top Foot.

Furthermore, they have been scored from just 84 shots, 48 of which were on target per Squawka.

Lionel Messi is just as comfortable out wide, and with the ability to drift inside at will and play his favourite pass in behind the full-backs and defensive line, it’s arguable that the Argentine is actually more dangerous out wide.

What Costa’s presence does is allow the heat to be taken from Messi. If defenders go after the threat posed by him, they leave Costa open and themselves exposed centrally.

Even if Barca were to play a narrower three up-top, Messi and/or Neymar benefit from any knock-downs or flick-ons from the big man.

It may be a slightly less continental way of playing, but as Atleti have shown with a Costa-Villa partnership, there is a place in La Liga for the “big man, little man” combination if used correctly.

The Rojiblancos have certainly received just as many plaudits for their work throughout this campaign as Barca, and Costa is as much a part of that success as any other squad player.

With his buyout clause at an affordable £32 million, there would be no real risk attached to purchasing a player that is still only 25 years old and with his best years ahead of him.

It's about time Barcelona's board did something right for a change.


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