Diego Costa underwent surgery in his native Brazil last week to fix his aching left foot. The surgery was a success, but Atlético Madrid have some big decisions to make in the coming weeks with other questions questions looming over the striker, too.
“The intervention consisted in the removal of the osteosynthesis material of the V metatarsal that our player underwent 12 years ago and in repairing the short peroneal tendon,” read an Atlético statement on the operation.
Atleti didn’t give a timeframe, possibly because they don’t have one, but he is expected to miss two months of action give or take a week or two. Costa has a history of quick recovery and rushing himself back, so don’t expect him to sit around in passive recovery either.
Costa’s injuries had turned him into a shell of the player he once was. What at one time were regular darts into the channels had become much rarer and the fighting spirit had diminished to the point that he looked and acted like a far inferior version of himself. He still walked like Diego Costa, and he still looked like Diego Costa but he wasn’t causing the same problems for defences and that was a problem for Atlético.
Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian are reportedly keen on signing him and the next two weeks against Valladolid and Espanyol could go a long way to showing Simeone what a future without Costa will look like.
Antoine Griezmann’s productivity has waned this season, but his expected assists per 90 have never been higher. Never one to shy away from a sacrificial role as we have seen under Simeone and under Didier Deschamps, Griezmann has tried to put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together himself rather than actually being a part of it. He has a chance now to become a reference as a false nine and expand his role in attack. That might improve Atlético overall.
Nikola Kalinić has scored two goals in very limited opportunities this season and those two goals have come relatively recently, as though he can sense a big chance is coming. His goal against Alavés at the weekend sent Atletico on their way to one of their most comprehensive wins of the season. He could be seen as a Mario Mandžukić-like destroyer in the penalty area, but his lack of mobility and speed compared to Costa might mean he is more of a situational player.
Finally, Simeone could also turn to Maxi Gomez in the winter transfer market. The Celta marksman would cost €50 million, but Costa is weighing up the possibility of that move to China. A number of years ago at Chelsea, when he was in his pomp, he considered a move to Asia and you wonder now, with his history of injuries and further frustration, if it would be best for him to go. If the mattress makers do sell Costa, the money from that deal would fund Gomez and the Uruguayans in the squad have been reportedly trying to coax the Celta Vigo striker into joining.
Griezmann, Kalinić and Gelson Martins are among those with points to prove in the coming weeks and Costa has some thinking to do too. But once we return to action after the Christmas break, there could be a new look to this Atlético side — for better or for worse.