Who will replace Diego Costa at Atletico Madrid?
In the final days of 2020, Diego Costa and Atletico Madrid parted ways after the termination of the striker’s contract at the Wanda Metropolitano.
A lack of form, injuries, and the signing of Luis Suarez as Los Colchoneros’ new focal point up top has left Costa with just two La Liga starts to his name in 2020/21, which prompted him to ask to be let out of his deal prematurely to become a free agent.
Despite costing Atletico £45m [€49.8m] to bring him back from Chelsea a couple of years ago, the Spanish side were happy to part ways with Costa in order to get him off the wage bill due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged the finances of every club in Spain.
Now, though, head coach Diego Simeone is light in the centre-forward position, with only Suarez and, to a lesser extent, Joao Felix, the senior members of the squad who can play up top naturally.
With both Real Madrid and Barcelona struggling this season, Atletico are currently top of La Liga, finding themselves in the best position they have been in years to try and win the league.
With a gruelling title run-in on the horizon, they won’t want to be left short in forward areas, especially if something should happen to Suarez.
So, who are they looking to bring in to fill the Costa void?
Atletico Madrid’s January targets
Mundo Deportivo reports that Atletico’s primary target for the winter window is Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik, who has fallen out of favour under Rino Gattuso.
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Milik’s contract is up in the summer so he is currently available to talk to clubs about a potential free transfer at the conclusion of the current season, but Atletico are keen to bring him in before then to add another attacking option to their squad.
Director of football Andrea Berta allegedly met the Poland international last summer about a move only for that not to materialise, so this one already has some traction, with Simeone reportedly a fan of the centre-forward’s talents.
Atletico could be set to take advantage of the Chinese Super League’s plans to introduce a new salary cap of £2.7m per year for foreign players.
The CSL is braced for an exodus of high-profile names, who will no longer be able to earn the millions that sold them on a move to the Far East in the first place.
One of these names is Cedric Bakambu, who joined Beijing Guoan from Villarreal after they triggered his €40m release clause. The 29-year-old continued his prolific goalscoring in China after impressing for the Yellow Submarine, and is poised to make the move back to Spain this January.
One of the most impressive teams in La Liga this season has been Real Sociedad, who are currently third in the table ahead of Villarreal and Barcelona in fourth and fifth.
A useful player in their pursuit of Champions League football has been Willian Jose, who has scored three times in eight starts so far this campaign.
The Brazilian forward is by no means a prolific goalscorer, but is certainly in the same mould as Costa in that his physicality and link-up play help introduce his team-mates into the game in advanced areas.
In terms of a like-for-like replacement for Costa, who probably won’t start every week, this seems the most likely option for Simeone.
Olivier Giroud’s current Chelsea contract runs out this summer and a few months ago the club were happy to let him go this January for a fee rather than for free in six months.
However, the Frenchman has once again became a useful squad player under Frank Lampard, and it is more than likely he’ll continue to be used while forwards like Timo Werner misfire in front of goal.
For the Blues to entertain a January deal, an offer would have to come in high enough for them to lose an important squad player, but still earn some cash rather than allowing him to leave upon the expiration of his contract.
Atletico face strong competition from Inter for Giroud, however.