Does it take a management genius to see that Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas would improve a team, as Jose Mourinho spotted when sizing up his Chelsea squad following last season’s third-place Premier League finish?
Mourinho moved quickly for the pair when the campaign came to a close, with Fabregas confirmed as a Chelsea player on the eve of the World Cup and Costa, a long-running deal that threatened to become a saga, wrapped up on July 1.
Costa grabbed the headlines with his performance for the Blues as Swansea City came to Stamford Bridge and left with a bit of a thumping. The former Atletico Madrid striker claimed a hat-trick, having netted a brace in his last club appearance, against Everton.
But while Costa’s goals are of course crucial, it’s Fabregas – looking more at home in Chelsea colours than could have been expected – pulling the strings.
Statistics from EuroFantasyLeague.com show that not only is Costa Europe’s top scorer so far, but Fabregas is the continent’s leading creator. The ex-Barcelona midfielder leads the way from Gylfi Sigurdsson, with four, and teammate Ramires and Lyon’s Jordan Ferri, who have three.
Between them, Costa and Fabregas are two of EuroFantasyLeague’s most wanted players – almost a quarter of all players of the game have the former in their side, more than any other player, even Lionel Messi. Fabregas, meanwhile, has been picked by just under 20%, putting him roughly on par with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and ahead of the likes of Andes Iniesta and Radamel Falcao.
Perhaps most intriguing, however, is that Costa and Fabregas have been parachuted into a number of EFL teams. Falcao’s move from Monaco to Manchester United likely spurred EFL managers into swooping for the Colombian – if he’s good enough for Louis van Gaal, he’s good enough for me – but Costa is only a step behind his old Atletico teammate. And Fabregas places highly too, suggesting their respective form has taken some people by surprise.
Surely not Mourinho, though. The Portuguese said throughout last year that Chelsea were a season away from being title challengers. Only four games in and not only are they title challengers, they’re title favourites. The goals of Costa and the assists of Fabregas have seen to that – but at the root of it all is the vision of Mourinho.
When transfers work out it appears obvious in hindsight that they would, but the signings of Costa and Fabregas were fraught with potential pitfalls. Would Costa join the ranks of high-price Chelsea imports who struggled in England? Would Fabregas feel comfortable playing in London in something other than Arsenal red?
Mourinho, whether he knew the answers or willed them to fall in his favour, is already reaping the rewards. If Costa and Fabregas keep it up there’ll be more to come in May.