Douglas Costa is an enigma. You never really know what to expect of the Brazilian on the pitch and more recently, he’s unpredictable off the pitch too.
Often criticised for his inconsistency and sometimes a lackadaisical approach, Costa can be a gem on his day. Watch the 2017-18 season back, it will tell you a story that is filled to the brim with assists (12) and impressive performances throughout that campaign. Be it on the left flank or on the right in a 4-2-3-1 under Max Allegri, he shone. He got as many as three assists in a game against Sampdoria towards the end of that season, despite having played only a single half.
But last season, the more remarkable images about Douglas Costa aren’t the best ones. That includes the infamous sight of spitting on Sassuolo’s Federico Di Francesco and getting banned for four games. You can even picture him being involved in that party in Paris with Selecao teammate Neymar - something Juve didn’t approve of. Then you look at the numbers and they won’t tell a promising story.
He is currently 28, an age at which many wingers like him are at their prime. Last season does suggest otherwise for Costa, but he seems keen on a shot at redemption under a manager who could well bring the best out of his abilities.
There is every chance Costa makes the most of this, considering how good he was under a similar sort of Coach during his days at Bayern Munich.
When Douglas Costa was signed by the Bavarians from Shakhtar Donetsk, Pep Guardiola was in charge at the Allianz Arena. Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri belong to a similar batch of tacticians, those that play an attacking brand of football. Sarri’s approach to possession football is more direct than that of Guardiola, and much more attacking than how Allegri was last season.
In the 2015-16 season under Guardiola (Costa’s first at Bayern), the Brazilian was one of the best players in the side. So much so that many began heralding him as one of the best wingers in the world. He was seen as a replacement for Arjen Robben, scoring four times and assisting nine. He fit right into the system and attracted the attention of many.
The next season though, a more pragmatic Coach in Carlo Ancelotti came along. Costa did suffer injuries and that hampered his form as inconsistency came in.
It is clear from these patterns that Douglas Costa would love it under a manager who plays attacking football, less so under Allegri or Ancelotti. He will have the freedom to run at defences and take them on with his pace and trickery. Playing under a Coach like Sarri allows a player to do that: look at Eden Hazard at Chelsea or Lorenzo Insigne at Napoli.
Allegri’s system last season at Juve didn’t help their two most creative players, Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala. While La Joya had his own issues of being played out of position in a rickety style, Costa too had to take part of the blame himself. He wasn’t at his best, but the system never helped either.
Allegri’s tactics in the 2017-18 campaign were much better, especially as the emphasis wasn’t on one man in Cristiano Ronaldo. There were players who had to share the load. There wasn’t a lack of star names who could take opponents on and beat them. There was dynamism in the approach, even though it was pragmatic to an extent.
That is why Douglas Costa deserves a chance. Even though he did little to convince Bianconeri fans last season, there is every possibility he proves himself under Sarri.