Richard Hobbs looks back of Costa’s time at Wolves following is move to Leeds United
The wait. That’s all I really remember from the summer of 2016. We all knew Steve Morgan wanted out and had spent the past 12 months maneuvering behinds the scenes to make the club as attractive as possible to potential suitors.
Kenny Jackett and countless Wolves fans sat in footballing limbo, waiting for news on a takeover.
The season was drawing nearer the lack of incoming players was growing increasingly concerning. Jackett’s team had become stale and lacked verve and creativity following the disintegration of the Sako-Afobe-Dicko trifecta. With the ownership in question, he couldn’t rebuild or even patch up the squad.
With only a couple of weeks until the start of the season, Wolves only signing was back up keeper Andy Lonergan. Not exactly inspiring stuff.
Then the wait was over and the new guys in town didn’t waste anymore time.
With a stake in Gestifute and a close-relationship with super agent Jorge Mendes, Fosun meant business.
By the end of the window, Wolves had secured another seven senior players to flesh out the squad. Several players coming from Mr Mendes’ little black book. What started as an eternal wait ended with Wolves breaking their transfer record signing Ivan Cavaleiro and also signing a certain Hélder Costa on loan.
If we’re being honest, the squad that season was a mess. The team visibly looked to be divided into fractions. The old guard, an influx of Iberian players and Paul Gladon having a whale of a time exploring England.
Once Costa was given a run of games, it was apparent he had something about him. Against promotion favourites Newcastle Wolves were coming off the back of a 4-0 drubbing to Barnsley and looked to be easy pickings for the Geordies.
Costa lit the game up for the 75 minutes he was on the pitch. A constant outlet, his ability to hold onto the ball with his close control gave much relief for the defence. Considering the defence contained Danny Batth and Dominic Iorfa at centre back and Cameron Borthwick Jackson at left back, it was sorely needed.
Costa emulated Arjen Robben to cut inside to whip the ball into the far corner to make it 2-0. That style goal would become a common trend that season.
When he picked the ball up on the corner of the box, like watching a magician perform a trick. We could comprehend the set up but we couldn’t quite grasp how thew winger did the bits in between to get to the end result. He cut, slip, slalomed and fainted through bodies until an opening came for him to fire at goal.
Despite the mess. Costa hit the ground running. While his compatriot Cavaleiro was eased in to English football, Costa looked at home bamboozling left backs into mere husks of their former selves.
Costa always seemed to rise to the occasion. When the likes of Teixeira dropped off and Bodvarsson was blunted, Wolves could always rely of Hélder to deliver.
Costa truly announces himself to English football through the magic of the FA cup. After scoring against Stoke, Costa pulled out a virtuoso performance at Anfield versus Liverpool. Although he didn’t score, he played like a man on a mission and genuinely would have gone down in English football folklore if he could have applied a finish to his run from his own half.
Wolves secured Costa on a permanent deal in January- nearly doubling their record transfer. Costa’s first six months at Wolves has become the model for how the club like to work. Come to the club on loan, perform well and secure permanently before other teams cotton on to how good they are.
As Wolves and Costa secured their position in the Championship at the start of April, the winger injured his ankle. This was his Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, the pin point moment to where it all started to turn.
Jeff Shi and the gang brought in Nuno in the summer of 2017. It was like the first true season under the Fosun regime. With arrival of the Portuguese manager a wave of positivity came with him. His fresh tactics shifted to a continental 3-4-3 with more intensity and focus of positional awareness.
Cavaleiro dominated on the right wing while Costa was on the treatment table. When Costa returned after a 19 game absence, he never look quite the same that season. Whether it was the lack of a preseason, fear of re-injury and a struggle to comprehend the new tactics, he didn’t possess the aura he bought with him the season before. Costa didn’t have the same chemistry with Doherty and the Irishman had with Cavaleiro and looked slightly out of place.
There were glimpses of the old Costa as Wolves strode to winning the Championship but after being the big man on campus the season before, it was clear the like of Neves and Jota were the new ‘it’ thing. Following promotion, his ranking in the star chart was only going to dwindle.
Costa was looking sharp with a preseason under his belt ahead of the team’s top flight return. Bulking up to stand up to the rigors of the Premier League, he was Nuno’s pick ahead of Cavaleiro to start for Wolves.
The Premier League is an unforgiving mistress. If you can’t adapt, survive or thrive it will eat you up and spit you out.
Despite Wolves pushing for the top 10 after the first few months of the season, it was clear the output of the wide forwards wasn’t good enough. Jota, Cavaleiro and Costa could not put a good run of games together. With the team being constantly being overran in midfield, Wolves went wingerless to a 3-5-2 system.
Jota took his chance in a more central role and formed a delightful partnership with Jimenez. Cavaleiro and Costa both looked out of place when tried in the new formation. It felt the team had developed beyond them. Adapt, survive or thrive.
When Costa played in the Premier League he lacked confidence to test and torment fullbacks like he’d done before. A handful of moments such as his goal against Spurs weren’t enough to convince anyone he could be a firm fixture in the team moving forwards.
His move to Leeds could not be more perfect for all parties. Leeds have got a top quality player who could be the difference between the playoffs to automatic places. Costa will once again be in a position where he is the star man and will be against weaker opposition. While Wolves will have made a 25% profit the him when the move turns permanent. Not bad considering he was the club’s transfer record not too long ago.
It is a shame Costa’s time at Wolves fizzled out the way it did. He put the team on his pack when they needed it the most. Then others came, took the responsibility off his shoulders until he was all but redundant. It’s easy to be the star when you’re on top. Costa joined the the club in disarray and helped steer Wolves on the path they are on now.
To be honest, I’ve never really cared for Leeds. But with Helder Costa, Barry Douglas and Bielsa in charge it’s becoming harder to dislike them. If Costa returns to Molineux with Leeds, I’ll be the first to stand up and applaud him.
Wherever the future takes Wolves under Fosun, whatever our European adventure brings, we’ll never forget your contribution Hélder Costa.
Farewell Mr Costa. Have fun destroying left backs next season.
Join us for a special edition Fancast Live show on Thursday 23rd August. We look back on the last 10 years as a Wolves Fan. There might event be some prizes and surprises…
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