The Ballon d’Or has caused some controversy in recent years with glaring omissions from shortlists and teams of the year, as well as some bizarre voting patterns and preferential treatment by coaches or players involved in the voting process. So, to try and bring some credibility back to football’s individual honours, we have created The Blog d’Or, where the writers of The Blog FC have whittled down a 50-man longlist to countdown the real best 23 players of the calendar year. The countdown continues here.
The Blog d’Or #5
Atletico Madrid & Chelsea
At times, you’d be forgiven for thinking Diego Costa was a street fighter from Rio de Janeiro or a UFC superstar, and that’s even when he’s on the pitch in a Chelsea kit.
The Brazilian-born Spanish international had a whirlwind 2014. Though he was a crucial part of the Atletico Madrid title-winning side, scoring 27 league goals, he suffered a hamstring injury after just 16 minutes in Atleti’s final league match against Barcelona, though his departure from the field did not halt Atleti’s success.
The club then sent Costa to Belgrade for horse placenta treatment in an audacious bid to have Costa ready for the UEFA Champions League final against arch-rivals Real Madrid, but Diego Simeone’s decision to start the lively striker backfired, with Costa succumbing to the same injury just eight minutes into the match.
After rejecting Liverpool’s overtures 12 months earlier, Costa was officially unveiled as a Chelsea signing just days after the completion of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Costa had a bright start to the tournament, winning a penalty against the Netherlands, but Spain were thwarted by the Dutch 5-1 in that fixture, before losing 2-0 against Chile, where Costa was an ineffective substitute. Costa remained on the bench for Spain’s third fixture against Australia as he headed home to his adopted land.
It was a difficult tournament for the striker, who suffered plenty of abuse from Brazilian fans and administrators alike for turning his back on his country of birth, for whom he appeared twice in friendlies.
However, his discontent in Brazil would have been tempered by the news Chelsea were agreeing to his £32 million buy-out cause.
Costa and Chelsea started the 2014-15 English Premier League season on fire, netting seven in his first four league games, and the Blues were atop the table – where they have remained ever since. Despite missing a number of games due to a combination of injury, suspension and rotation, Costa sits at the summit of the goalscorer tally – level with Englishman Harry Kane on 19.
Costa has divided opinion for his actions on the pitch – he had a spitting/snot incident with Sergio Ramos in 2012 – and he has earned the ire of plenty of EPL managers and commentators since setting the league alight. His manager, Jose Mourinho, clearly sees him as indispensable though, and Costa seems to have strong enough character to not let the English press affect his state of mind. Speaking of Mourinho, it’s hard to imagine a more Mourinho-like player than the hard-working, clinical but confrontational Costa.
Chelsea sit six points clear of second-placed Manchester City at present with a game in hand and if the menacing forward from Lagarto can have any say at all in the remaining nine fixtures, the Blues are little chance of giving up that lead.