Towards the end of July, Juventus’ Brazilian winger Douglas Costa went viral. It wasn’t however for any of the reasons one would associate with Costa: no lightening quick ‘elastico’ that beguiled an opponent, no mazy dribble that simultaneously beat several opposition defenders, nor was it for the occasional wonder goal that he’s capable of.
No, the 29-year-old’s choreographed TikTok videos with his girlfriend, Nathalia Felix, are what spread around the digital globe. Whilst the videos are indeed slightly entertaining, and even one in which Costa appears to ‘swallow’ his partner, highly creative, it’s a damning indictment of the direction Costa’s career is heading in.
Whilst not necessarily deemed a flop at Juve, the Brazilian has been blighted by injuries: 10 different injuries in his three seasons has seen Costa miss an accumulated 47 games. The perception of the winger in Italy is that he simply hasn’t been on the pitch with enough consistency to be judged a success or failure.
Bought alongside Federico Bernardeschi in the summer of 2017 to give then-coach Max Allegri further weapons in attack following the catastrophic defeat to Real Madrid in the final of the previous seasons’ Champions League. Costa had been earmarked as someone who could supply Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala with the service they craved, a player who could dribble past opponents in remarkably tight spaces at dizzying speed. A player of Costa’s skillset was a feature their squad lacked.
A somewhat productive first season ended in four goals and 12 assists from only 18 starts in Serie A as Juve won another domestic double under Allegri. The turning point in his time with the club came against Sassuolo early in the next season, when Costa – who had only been on the pitch for 25 minutes – was sent off for spitting at Federico Di Francesco after a coming together between the pair. Costa was handed a four-game suspension by the league, and it’s arguable his career at Juve has never really recovered.
As Maurizio Sarri replaced Allegri last summer, Costa was viewed as an integral part of Sarri’s 4-3-3 system, and started in the opening three games. Yet Costa’s kryptonite – muscular injuries – struck again. He pulled up only eight minutes into the third game against Fiorentina in Florence, and didn’t start another league game until the return fixture – in February.
The current iteration of Costa has been reduced to little more than an impact sub; someone who can terrorise fatigued defenders late in games with a moment of magic. A prime example of this was his solo effort against Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League last November, when he danced through several weary Russian limbs before slotting the ball under goalkeeper Guilherme to snatch an unwarranted victory for Juve.
With Juve needing to embark on a major squad overhaul following their meek exit in the Champions League to Lyon, Costa’s name has been perpetually mentioned as one of the high-earners the club want to shift on. Juve’s management acknowledge that whilst there is a serious talent in Costa, his susceptibility to injury means they can’t count on him for large portions of a season.
In recent days he’s been linked to Manchester United as a potential substitute in case the Jadon Sancho move collapses, however the English side are rightly sceptical given his fitness issues. As he approaches his 30th birthday, Costa will be a risky investment for any potential suitor.
Furthermore, his €6m-a-season deal with Juve has another two years left to run, and the club will be desperate to offload the winger, who may let him go for less than their reported asking fee of €30m if they struggle to also shift fellow big-earners such as Sami Khedira, Aaron Ramsey and Higuain.
A move away would benefit all parties, but whether there is a club with any genuine interest in him remains to be seen.
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