Munich - Despite only joining the club in early July and playing in just one competitive match thus far, Brazilian Douglas Costa already looks to have made a first-team spot his own at FC Bayern München.
Costa stole the show in both of Bayern’s Audi Cup 2015 victories against AC Milan and Real Madrid CF as Bayern won Wednesday’s final to lift the trophy for a third time. So impressive have his first few outings been that left-back David Alaba already believes Costa can become player of the season this term.
‘He definitely has the potential’
“He’s shown in the last few games what an incredibly good player he is, and I think he has the potential to be player of the season, otherwise he wouldn’t be here,“ said the Austrian international, and he wouldn’t appear to be that far wide of the mark.
After running rings around Milan on Tuesday night, Costa was again the outstanding player on Wednesday, taking the game to Real’s defence at every opportunity and assisting the winning goal for Robert Lewandowski with a superbly inswinging free-kick, having earlier laid one on a plate for the Pole to meekly shoot wide.
At the back end of last season, Bayern’s challenge, particularly in the UEFA Champions League, was stunted by injuries to first-choice wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, prompting Pep Guardiola’s lament that “we have no players for the one-on-one situations“. In Costa, however, the club seem to have found not just capable support for the veteran wing duo but also, potentially, an improvement.
Like Robben and Ribery, Costa is a direct player that excites the crowd, but he has made such an impact of late - from both flanks - that he will likely be the first name on the team sheet in the Bundesliga opener against Hamburger SV a week on Friday. Ribery, currently sidelined, could have quite a job winning back his place in the team.
Ready for a ‘long season’
Against VfL Wolfsburg in the Supercup and now against Milan and Madrid, he has given various opposing full-backs a torrid time, combining raw acceleration with a superb final product that has yielded two assists. Thomas Müller described him as having "a great engine", but that rather fails to do justice to Costa’s ability to run with the ball, with even his team-mates sometimes struggling to keep pace with his movement.
Costa himself is taking everything in his stride, though. “I’m happy with how things have gone. My team-mates have welcomed me really well from day one and they’ve made it a lot easier for me to do my job for the club,” he said exclusively to bundesliga.com. “I’m excited for the start of the season but we know it’s going to be a long one.” Plenty of time, then, to prove Alaba right.
Bernie Reeves reporting from Munich