Douglas Costa has been the standout performer in Juventus’ two opening fixtures of the season. Against Parma and Napoli, his frightening ability to shift gears in nanoseconds visibly struck fear into the hearts of the opposing players.
It’s the 61st minute of the gripping 4-3 encounter between Juventus and Napoli. Alex Sandro slips a pass forward to Blaise Matuidi. Matuidi, deep in Napoli territory down the left hand channel, slides a pass into their penalty box for the on-rushing Douglas Costa, who in turn plays a reverse pass into the centre for Cristiano Ronaldo to, fortuitously it must be said, slot the ball past Alex Meret to make it 3-0.
It was four touches in all: from Alex Sandro to Matuidi to Douglas Costa to Ronaldo. Football at its simplistic best. Pass and move. The key was the movement from Douglas Costa, who ghosted into the penalty area, leaving Napoli players for dead with his lightning acceleration.
Serie A has historically never really possessed players in the Douglas Costa mould, and certainly not so in recent years. This leaves defenders with no blueprint as to how to defend against the Brazilian, with his array of tricks and feet so quick that if you blinked, the ball, and he, would be gone. The Flash, his nickname, is entirely appropriate.
He assisted two of the four Juventus goals against Napoli, and also played a pivotal role in Cristiano Ronaldo’s harshly disallowed goal against Parma at the Ennio Tardini on the opening day of the season, carrying the ball the length of the pitch before slipping Ronaldo in.
When in possession, there is a sense of anticipation around him; audible gasps can be heard from Juve supporters whenever Douglas Costa is faced with a defender, hoping he pulls out a magic trick from his seemingly endless repertoire. In both games this season, he’s yet to put a foot wrong.
But despite this, many would’ve bet on Douglas Costa not being in Turin by the opening of the 2019-20 campaign, such was the disappointment from all levels within the club at his professionalism throughout last season.
Towards the end of a home game against Sassuolo, Douglas Costa lost his composure and picked up two bookings inside four minutes, after getting into a quarrel with Federico Di Francesco, son of Eusebio. Douglas Costa first elbowed Di Francesco in the head, before deciding that it wasn’t enough, and spat on him.
He was given a four-game ban, and was heavily fined by Juventus. Following his suspension, Douglas Costa returned a player short of rhythm and confidence. Max Allegri had also seemingly soured, playing him from the start on only six occasions between October and February.
Douglas Costa was then involved in a car crash, in which thankfully no one was seriously injured. Not perturbed by this, the Brazilian checked himself out of hospital and promptly flew to Paris to attend Neymar’s lavish birthday bash. Between a hamstring and calf injury, he didn’t play another minute in 2018-19.
Such reckless behavior doesn’t fly at most clubs, let alone one as staunchly professional as The Old Lady. Douglas Costa would be one of the first to be packaged up and sent away, it seemed. Manchester United were willing to spend big on the winger and in turn fund other more essential transfers.
However, the Brazilian had a moment of self-awakening, and declared he wanted to stay at the club, and subsequently buckled down, starting pre-season training before any other member of the squad.
His attitude has so far managed to overturn last season’s failings. With Maurizio Sarri now in charge, Douglas Costa knows his attacking potential can be unleashed, compared to the pragmatism of his predecessor.
If he stays fit, and focused, Douglas Costa can become a cornerstone of Sarri’s first season.
Juventus fans will be hoping he’s more than a flash in the pan.
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