28 Apr 2017

World-Class Series [No7]: Diego Costa (Atletico, Chelsea, Spain). Is he 'world-class'?

According to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, Chelsea striker Diego Costa is 'world-class', but is that really true?

World Class: My Definition

Before a player can be deemed 'world-class', he/she must have a Specific, Measurable Impact (SMI) at all three levels of football, and push his/her team to relative success at all three levels.

The Three Levels

* Domestic: National leagues.

* European: Champions League, Europa League, or equivalent.

* World: International - qualifying and/or tournaments.

Relative Success: OAL and SMI

* What is the the team's Optimum Achievement Level (OAL) in a given competition? In other words, based on historical performance, what is the absolute best the team can realistically expect to achieve?

* Causation: The player's causal contribution to his team's OAL. To what extend did the player in question help the team to meet its OAL? But for the player under consideration, would the team still have achieved its OAL?

* A variety of objective, position-specific criteria should be used when assessing the SMI of players. For example, for attacking players: Goals; assists; conversion rate; key passes; shot-assists; passing accuracy etc. For defenders: goals conceded; blocks; aerial duels won; tackle success rate etc.

* Players in inferior teams are still capable of being 'world class' as long as their SMI is such that they excel, and push their team to achieve its OAL (though in all cases, SMI at all three levels is required).


* SMI at Domestic Level: Chelsea: 73 goals/assists in 100 games (One every 112 mins). Helped Chelsea win the League title/League Cup). 2014-15: 23 goals/assists in Chelsea title-winning season. 2014-15: PFA 'Team of the Year'.

- Atletico Madrid: 73 goals/assists in 114 games (One every 109 mins). Integral role in Atletico winning the league and Copa Del Rey. 2013-14: 30 goals/assists in Atletico's La Liga-winning season. 2013-14: Copa Del Rey top scorer with 8 goals in 8 games. 2013-14: La Liga 'Team of the Season'.

* SMI at European Level: Chelsea: 6 goals/assists in 15 CL games (One every 195 mins). 2014-15: 0 goals/1 assist in 7 CL games. Atletico: 13 goals/assists in 20 CL/EL games (One every 100 mins). 2013-14: 9 goals/assists 9 games helped Atletico's reach the CL final. 2013-14: CL 'Team of the Season'.

* SMI at International level: Spain: 8 goals/assists in 15 games (One every 138 mins). 2014: Failed to make any significant impact at the World Cup (Started 2 games; both ended in defeat). 2016: Left out of Spain's squad for the Euros.

- All international goals have come against comparative poor teams (Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Israel, and Albania). Failed to score against better teams, including Italy (twice), Holland, Belgium, England, Chile, and France.

* Conclusion: Costa has had a specific, measurable impact at domestic level. His league goals were vital to Chelsea and Atletico winning league titles in their respective leagues.

- At European level, Costa just about scrapes it due to his dominant impact on Atletico's run to the Champions League final in 2014. However, since then, he has regressed in Europe, as evidenced by his poor CL record at Chelsea, who were knocked out in the second round in their last two CL seasons. A world-class striker should be able to push his team to achieve and/or exceed its OAL in the CL; Costa achieved that with Atletico, but not with Chelsea.

- Costa is yet to make his mark at international level. He's had next to no impact on Spain, and after unparalled success between 2008 and 2012 (2 World Cup; 2 European Championships), Spain went out in the group stage of World Cup 2014. Despite a superb season in La Liga, Costa failed to transfer his form to the international stage.

* Verdict: Not World-Class. To become World-Class, Costa needs to up his game in Europe, and play a dominant role in Spain winning another international trophy (or at least getting to a final). Costa does not have the mentality to become a world-class player (IMO). He's a sulker, and when things aren't going his way, his performance suffers, and there are several high-profile examples of this during his career.

-- Read other articles in 'World-Class' Series HERE


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