Manchester United target Diogo Costa has been voted Athlete of the Year at his current club, FC Porto, despite being roundly blamed in his home country, Portugal, for their elimination from the World Cup.
Costa has been outstanding for Porto this season and his performances have attracted the attention of a number of Europe’s top clubs, including United.
Three penalty saves in successive Champions League games sent tongues wagging around the football world.
Three penalty saves in successive games for Porto!
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 31, 2022
Meanwhile, David de Gea’s contract at to Old Trafford is coming to an end and is unlikely to be renewed, given his age (32) and the amount (£375,000 per week). While it is still possible that a new contract with a reduced salary could be negotiated, United have been scouting replacements and Costa is widely reported to have emerged as the top name on the wish list.
Shortly prior to the World Cup, United reportedly asked to be kept informed of any other bids for the 23 year old and Porto handed the star a lucrative new contract with a €75 million release clause to protect their asset.
But some nervous keeping on the world’s greatest stage has thrown into question whether the keeper has the mental strength to serve behind the sticks at a high pressure club like United.
A blooper in Portugal’s opening game against Ghana almost cost his side the three points when Costa rolled the ball to his feet for a kick, unaware that Inaki Williams was behind him. Williams pinched the ball but slipped at the decisive moment.
Then a mistake in the quarter final was punished, as Costa came for a cross he was never going to get, allowing Youssef En-Nasyri to head into an empty net.
The backlash from Portuguese fans has led FC Porto vice president Vitor Baia, a former goalkeeper, to defend Costa, saying (via o Jogo):
“He is highly prepared. He’s a talent at all levels: balance, quality and he’s going to have an incredible career. He has the world in his hands.
“Diogo is an extraordinary player, who fortunately grew up at our club and has already had an incredible career. I have already prepared him for adversity when things don’t go your way.”
United now have three decisions to make. First, whether they look to replace De Gea or not. Second, whether they believe Costa at United would be the Costa that earned the accolades at FC Porto or the Costa that crumbled under pressure at Qatar. And third, they must decide whether they are prepared to negotiate a €75 million price tag for a new goalkeeper with such a large question hanging over his head.
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