Diego Costa has made quite the impression back at Atletico Madrid this season. Or should that be half season.
Unable to play matches until January, the striker had six months or so in which to stew, before making an earnest contribution.
His situation mirrored that of former team-mate Arda Turan when signing for Barcelona, though in Costa’s case, things have gone very much better.
Turan never really recovered his Atleti form at the Blaugrana, whereas it’s like Costa has never been away.
Angry, bullish, physical… all the traits that made him a top target for Chelsea not so long ago are still there, and he’s still scoring goals.
As with most things in life, success or otherwise can depend on timing or momentum. With the World Cup just six weeks away, Costa couldn’t have timed his candidacy to be on the plane with Spain any better.
Overlooked for some while at national level, he nevertheless has the support of coach, Julen Lopetegui. Why? Because he offers something completely different to the other strikers under consideration.
To start with, his replacement at Chelsea, Alvaro Morata, hasn’t had the best time of it in west London. A great start in the Premier League was soon forgotten, and from being a ‘shoo-in’ for the World Cup squad in August, his poor form means that he now finds himself on the fringes.
It’s no wonder that a rumoured move back to Juventus is gathering pace, but even if Serie A is eventually his home again, it will be too late to get him to Russia.
Both David Villa and Fernando Torres could only be considered as a ‘wild card’ at this point, with injuries the only reason that would force Lopetegui’s hand as far as that pair are concerned.
Both have had an outstanding season in Spain, and Lopetegui has been suitably impressed.
Aspas, in particular, has been on-fire in an average Celta Vigo side. Twenty goals scored in 2017/18 makes him the highest-scoring Spaniard in La Liga, just three behind Luis Suarez and four shy of Cristiano Ronaldo.
His movement and appreciation of space has been top class all season long.
Whether he’s had balls played into feet, or chipped over the top to run onto, invariably, he’s made the most of the opportunities that have come his way.
Quick, agile and with a sniper’s eye for goal, it’s easy to see why he would be one of the first names on the Spain team sheet.
Rodrigo has come into his own under Marcelino at Valencia. His 16 goals scored isn’t too shabby either and is one of the reasons that Los Che are still flying high.
Parts of his game are still a little raw and that could be a concern for Lopetegui given that at 27 years of age, Rodrigo is in his footballing prime. Can he cut it on the biggest stage will be the only question being asked by the coach.
Both he and Aspas rely on their natural speed and their speed of thought, whereas Costa is the battering ram that will go to war in each and every game.
Six goals in 18 games (1 in every 3) isn’t bad, but a poor 74 percent pass completion success for a team that prides itself on their accuracy in distribution might raise eyebrows.
However, there’s no escaping that his form has allowed Antoine Griezmann to shine at club level, and he continues to be a nightmare for defenders to contain.
Is it a risk to consider keeping a spot open for him? Undoubtedly. Though risk often brings reward…
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