The last time Jose Mourinho saw Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa paired together in a competitive match, such was his frustration at how things were going, he ended up being sent to the stands by a match official.
That was in 2013 when his Real Madrid team were second best to neighbours Atletico in the Copa Del Rey, with the two deadly strikers combining to good effect up front to help secure a 2-1 victory. The sight of Falcao setting up Costa for Atletico’s opening goal clearly left a lasting impression on Mourinho because this summer he has reunited the duo at Chelsea.
Costa arrived last summer with reputation and fee (£32m) sky-high, one of the most feared forwards in Europe. In contrast, Falcao has come this summer on loan from Monaco with his reputation dented after a lacklustre campaign at Manchester United last term where he scored just four goals in 29 games.
It is 18 months since Falcao had surgery on a knee ligament injury, but a solution to the loss of confidence his six-month lay-off triggered has proved harder to find. Answers were beyond Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford. Indeed, he sent the man who scored 52 goals in 68 La Liga games for Atletico to play for the reserves. But as far as Costa is concerned, his old strike-partner will find the perfect remedy in working under Mourinho.
“Radamel knows the sort of manager Mourinho is: one who is liked by players because he trusts and backs them,” Costa explains. “He doesn’t sign a player just for the sake of it, it’s because he has confidence in him and wants him to feature regularly.
“It’s good for us that he didn’t have the best of seasons [at United] as that’s why he’s now with us. We know that Falcao is hugely talented: he has shown that all over the world. The only thing he needs is to feel loved and trusted and he will get both here.”
Despite their alliance against Mourinho’s Madrid a couple of years ago, one might assume Costa wouldn’t be that pleased to battle with the 29-year-old for a starting place once again. After all, for the majority of their time together at Atletico, Costa had to sit on the bench while Falcao was running amok against opposition defences. Costa’s chances were not helped back then by a knee ligament injury of his own picked up just after Falcao joined from Porto in 2011.
Even though Costa scored 21 goals as Chelsea claimed the League and Capital One Cup last term, Mourinho has insisted that there will be competition between the duo, as well as Loïc Rémy, for a spot in the first team. Costa has no complaints and feels their relationship on and off the pitch can only grow stronger – to Chelsea’s benefit.
“I spent a couple of seasons with Falcao and things went fairly well,” Costa adds. “He did a lot for me and he’s a great striker. Whether the manager chooses to play us alongside each other, that’s up to him, but he is very talented. I suffered an injury similar to his and now I’m fine. All he needs is the consistency of regular football. Here’s hoping he can be the same player that he has been throughout his career.”
As for Costa, it is an understatement to say he didn’t receive much affection from match officials or opponents during his debut season. He was booked for diving, served a three-game ban for treading on Liverpool’s Emre Can and was often criticised for an aggressive style of play.
It led to suggestions in Spain that he was desperate to escape the furore and return to Atletico. Far from it. “What was said was untrue,” he says. “I’ve always been very happy there [in Madrid] and I love the city. I got used to life over there but I’m very content at Chelsea and I hope to be here for a while yet.
“I won’t change my style. I haven’t done anything malicious; I’ve not had a red card so why change? I’ve always played this way for all the sides I’ve been with and I’ve scored a lot of goals in this style.
“The key for me is to score goals and win trophies, if I change in any way, I’m not going to be the same player. I feel at ease and neither the manager nor anyone else at the club has said anything to me, and at no point have I shown any lack of loyalty at all and so that is good enough for me.”
After winning two trophies last season there is now one particular prize he has in his sights – the Champions League. His recent history with the competition hasn’t been happy. He lasted just nine minutes of Atletico’s 4-1 defeat by Real in the 2014 final due to a hamstring injury. Costa then failed to find the net for Chelsea in the competition as they went out at the last 16 stage to Paris Saint-Germain, who they face in a friendly in Charlotte tonight.
“The aim is to win the Champions League. I came very close with Atletico, but we didn’t have the luck we deserved. We have a squad here capable of winning it.”
Should Falcao and Costa combine to seal the Champions League, the reuniting of the pair will be one of Mourinho’s finest moves.Reuse content