Diogo Costa: The Present and Future of Portugal’s Goalkeeper Position
There are few goalkeepers who at the age of 22 – start for their nation, hold the number 1 spot at their boyhood club, experience Champions League football and win five domestic trophies. There are few goalkeepers like the present and future of Porto and Portugal, Diogo Meireles da Costa.
Diogo Costa is unarguably one of the brightest goalkeeping prospects in world football and has attracted interest most notably from the likes of Barcelona and Newcastle recently. Here is the lowdown on the promising shot-stopper.
The now 22-year-old stands at 6ft4in tall and wears the number 99 initially made iconic by Vitor Baia, but it all started out in 2009, at CB Povoa Lanhoso of the Braga district, a small amateur youth side.
Costa would join the Porto youth ranks in 2011, accelerating his development drastically, and becoming a prospect to look out for from an early age. Comparisons and aspirations to pick up from the aforementioned Baia, Iker Casillas and the man he would replace, Agustin Marchesin would scare Diogo Costa in no way.
It should be no understatement that Diogo is a born winner. On three different occasions, Costa would be included in the UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament (2016 – U17, 2017 – U19, 2021 – U21), yes, including his debut tournament, where he would save a penalty to gift his nation the trophy – A testament also to his mentality, rate of development and sheer quality.
Porto’s 2018 Revelation Athlete of the Year will forever be engrained in the history of his nation, winning two youth tournaments in the form of the 2016 Under-17 European Championship, and 2018 Under-19 tournament.
In 2019, the UEFA Youth League would be won by an iconic Porto squad full of elite talents from the world-class Olival academy, a relentless factory for promising talent. That squad would contain the likes of Vitinha (Paris Saint-Germain), Fabio Silva (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Fabio Vieira (Arsenal) and many more talents yet to reach their full potential.
Back at Porto, at the age of 17, Diogo Costa would make his debut for the ‘B’ team, sat in the second tier of Portuguese football. A further 50 appearances would follow, an impressive feat for such a young talent.
Days after his 19th birthday, his first-team debut in a home win against Santa Clara would convince Sergio Conceicao to keep him around the first team to further his development and sum up crucial minutes in domestic cup competitions.
It would take an injury to Argentinian international Marchesin for Diogo Costa to become an undisputed starter at the start of the 2021/22 Liga BWIN season. The Goalkeeper of the Month award would be won five times by the talented youngster, including four consecutive wins, no doubt partly down to the 15 clean sheets kept, which was enough to be selected in the Primeira Liga Team of the Year in a season securing a domestic double, and one of the best league season performances ever seen in Portuguese football (points wise).
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All of this in an impressive Porto side, but one hosting a defence including a conflicted Chancel Mbemba due to an expiring contract, adapted winger Joao Mario, absences from Wilson Manafa and the fans’ ‘ugly duckling’ Zaidu Sanusi (perhaps a thing of the past after his title-clinching goal away to rivals Benfica). Many believed Porto’s defence was their weakest link, now bolstered by the arrival of highly-rated David Carmo from SC Braga.
The hype around Diogo Costa is unquestionably justified looking at what he has won at such a young age, but what about the ‘keeper himself? Well, he is everything you could ask for from a modern goalkeeper.
The Porto shot-stopper is a well-rounded elite goalkeeper, demonstrated by Porto’s first league game at home to Madeira side CS Maritimo (a common occurrence), where in an instant two certain goals were prevented by a young man with nerves of steel, high levels of concentration, safe hands, perfect positioning, agility, and reactions – he has all of this in abundance.
Costa is also elite coming off his line, being in the top percentiles in Europe for defensive actions outside his area. Despite not having favourable statistics in this area, he has a great control when crosses are being bombarded in, rarely making major mistakes in general, and boasting composed and solid decision making. Costa shone in these areas, particularly on route to conquering his spot, as Marchesin faltered in comparison.
This comparison is necessary also when looking at his ability to kickstart attacks. You will struggle to find many goalkeepers more efficient in this area, with such a range and ability. 42 passes attempted per 90 minutes, 11 of those completed over 40 yards, with completion rates in the 70th percentile in every area. His nonchalance while having the ability to construct play which many defenders should envy is utterly impressive, and can’t be described merely through words, but through watching the player.
Many will be reading this perhaps with slight confusion, due to a 5-1 loss to Liverpool in September that did not cover the talent with glory, but let it be known that it was an anomaly, to be expected even from a player of his class due to the nature of having a lack of experience – remembering that goalkeepers often peak in and around their early 30s, not 20s nor late teens.
Diogo Costa is an elite goalkeeper, the best in Portugal, arguably already the best out of 10.2 million Portuguese natives and will certainly be among Europe’s best shot-stoppers for years to come.
By: Kevin Araujo Fernandes / @kevinaraujof
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images