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Can Diego Costa roll back the years with Wolves after free transfer?

Make no mistake, there are fireworks waiting to go off at Wolverhampton Wanderers after their sensational bid to transfer Diego Costa for free.

Although the deal has come out of the transfer window, the transfer of the former Chelsea striker as a free agent means Wolves may have picked up one of the most intriguing transfers of the summer.

After signing a one-year deal with Molineux, it’s not going to be a quiet year for the ex-Spain star who has rarely evaded controversy during his career – and, quite frankly, also hits the mark.

Diego Costa has signed a one-year contract with Wolverhampton Wanderers after being a free agent
Diego Costa has signed a one-year contract with Wolverhampton Wanderers after being a free agent
The former Chelsea striker is back in the Premier League after five years
The former Chelsea striker is back in the Premier League after five years

Diego Costa has signed a one-year contract with Wolverhampton Wanderers after being a free agent

Wolves need targets – desperately. No team has scored less than their three out of six games this season. That also follows their poor record from last season, where they scored the least of all teams not relegated from the Premier League, averaging just one goal per game.

Manager Bruno Lage has been unable to find the answer during the transfer window and Costa’s move is a freestyle attempt to resolve a long-standing problem at Molineux.

At six feet tall, Sasa Kalajdzic could have been the solution, but an incredibly unfortunate ACL injury on his debut means the summer signing for Wolves won’t be scoring goals for a long time to come.

Raul Jimenez was the top scorer last season, but he managed to score just six Premier League goals, and the only other players to contribute more than two were only Hwang Hee-chan, Ruben Neves and now departed centre-back Conor Coady.

Wolves only battled for goals six times last year, with top scorer Raul Jimenez scoring just six
Wolves only battled for goals six times last year, with top scorer Raul Jimenez scoring just six

Wolves only battled for goals six times last year, with top scorer Raul Jimenez scoring just six

So the bar isn’t particularly high for Costa to clear, but can he, at 33, revive the form that helped send Chelsea to two Premier League titles during his previous top experience in England?

He won the Premier League in 2015 and 2017 under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, scored 20 goals in each campaign and was one of the best strikers during his time in England.

However, love didn’t last long with one of his Blues bosses. Mourinho was sacked shortly after the 2015 title success, with Costa infamously throwing his bib at Mourinho in a furious response for failing to play in the game against Tottenham.

Costa was one of the best strikers at Chelsea and won the Premier League twice
Costa was one of the best strikers at Chelsea and won the Premier League twice

Costa was one of the best strikers at Chelsea and won the Premier League twice

Meanwhile, his relationship under Conte also ended under a cloud. Before he barely had a chance to put down his Premier League title winner’s medal, he received a text from the current Spurs boss saying that despite his stellar season, he had no future at Stamford Bridge, sparking a disagreement between the two be.

But his record since he left the Bridge has made him more active in dealing with umpires than actually putting the ball in the net.

During his second spell with Atletico Madrid and Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro, which he left in January, he has received more yellow cards than goals, with his 25 bookings one more than his number in front of goal.

But Costa got into a fight with both of his Blues managers, including the infamous throwing of a bib at Jose Mourinho during a Premier League game at Tottenham in 2015
But Costa got into a fight with both of his Blues managers, including the infamous throwing of a bib at Jose Mourinho during a Premier League game at Tottenham in 2015

But Costa got into a fight with both of his Blues managers, including the infamous throwing of a bib at Jose Mourinho during a Premier League game at Tottenham in 2015

He was also dropped from the first team by Antonio Conte, despite starring in his attack
He was also dropped from the first team by Antonio Conte, despite starring in his attack

He was also dropped from the first team by Antonio Conte, despite starring in his attack

Who knows if his form has declined even more since his sudden departure from the Brazilian side? He has not played since before last Christmas, shortly before his contract expired.

At first glance, it looks like Wolves has recruited a player who is not only past his Blues best, but who is also likely to bring trouble on and off the pitch – so does he actually have anything to offer?

First let’s look at that contract termination in Brazil – it wasn’t as negative as you might think. Costa was much loved by the club, even though his best form had failed him with just five goals in 19 games. The reason behind his premature departure ahead of his contract expiring at the end of 2022 was the fact that his daughters were unable to settle in Brazil.

Supporters wanted him to stay, especially after helping them achieve their first league title in 50 years, and there was certainly no ill feeling at the club when he left.

Costa returned to Atlético Madrid after leaving Chelsea, but he collected more bookings than goals
Costa returned to Atlético Madrid after leaving Chelsea, but he collected more bookings than goals

Costa returned to Atlético Madrid after leaving Chelsea, but he collected more bookings than goals

Then Wolves supporters can at least hope Costa will still have some sort of desire to succeed and not just come back to England for one last payday.

However, the big question is, can he help solve Wolves’ shyness in front of the goal? And if so, how?

Looking back at his Chelsea form for answers may not be the place to go. His excellent body strength combined with explosive power is nowhere near the same as at his peak and to expect that kind of form, at least on a consistent basis, now seems unrealistic.

First off, it doesn’t look like it will take him long to get match fit, or if not, then at least be worthy of making an impact from the couch.

His last eight months in Madrid were spent training alone, but nine days after joining Mineiro, he grabbed the equalizer with six minutes left after finding space at the back post to send a volley home.

He left Brazil's Atletico Mineiro in January after his family failed to settle in Brazil
He left Brazil's Atletico Mineiro in January after his family failed to settle in Brazil

He left Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro in January after his family failed to settle in Brazil

The sharpness in the penalty area doesn’t seem to have diminished then, although we have to be a little careful when comparing defenders in Brazil’s domestic leagues with those in the Premier League.

However, Costa is not all about goals and only his physical presence can bring his new Wolves teammates into play.

After all, Jimenez is not a bad finisher – and if he can take advantage of more opportunities, the Mexican is likely to increase his goal tally.

Costa’s ability to hold the ball high up the field and keep defenders engaged is exactly what Wolves need to bring their attackers into play – and that power hasn’t gone away.

Costa's strong ability to hold the ball high and occupy defenders could bring Wolves forwards into play, especially Bruno Lage's faster players, including Adama Traore (above)
Costa's strong ability to hold the ball high and occupy defenders could bring Wolves forwards into play, especially Bruno Lage's faster players, including Adama Traore (above)

Costa’s strong ability to hold the ball high and occupy defenders could bring Wolves forwards into play, especially Bruno Lage’s faster players, including Adama Traore (above)

Wolves have pace to burn, and if Costa can bond with Adama Traore by letting him into space, that’s an improvement from their current creative woes.

The only concern Wolves may have is his injury record. He suffered from thigh problems during his time at Mineiro and your mid-thirties isn’t exactly an age when injuries start to disappear.

But on a free transfer and with no other answer to Wolves’ attacking woes, Costa could be the perfect man to let Lage’s side shoot again.

He may not be the long-term solution, but even managers he couldn’t get used to during his last Premier League stint got goals out of him. However, as always with the Spaniard, it’s unlikely to be boring.

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