“I won't stay at Shakhtar for a lifetime, but for one or two years,” Douglas Costa said after jetting into Donetsk's Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in 2010.
It’s been five years now, and the Brazilian midfielder feels the time has come to fulfil that promise and finally move abroad. When the day comes, the 24-year-old has no doubt about where he should head to – the Premier League. According to the man himself, offers from Chelsea and Manchester United were refused in the last transfer window.
Nevertheless, the Brazilian has warned Shakhtar’s CEO Sergey Palkin, and coach Mircea Lucescu, that he wants to leave Donetsk this summer. And he’s already aware about what moving to England would be like.
“I spent a few days at Fernandinho’s house after we played Manchester United in the Champions League [in December 2013] and I really enjoyed it,” Costa tells FFT. “I’ve also got Willian in London – he’s a friend for life. But I didn’t go to all these cities to check which one I’d be more comfortable with – it was to get together with my pals.
“We are always together with the Brazilian national team and I think that now it’s my turn to move away. There comes a time when you become sick and tired of playing in the same league. I’m 24 and I think that it’s worth trying to convince them to let me go away.”
That won’t be easy, though, of course – it wasn’t for Chelsea’s Willian, and it might be even more difficult for the Shakhtar star who's played almost 200 times for the Ukrainian side since 2010.
“Willian had all that trouble and his release clause was €35 million,” Costa says. “If you think that mine is even bigger, around €50m, you can imagine that it won’t be any easier. I’ve also had talks with other sides like Milan and Monaco throughout this time, but none of them have reached the price asked by Shakhtar.”
According to reports, Chelsea put €20m on the table for his services last winter. But that wasn't enough to tempt Shakhtar executives.
But when the Brazil international eventually leaves the Donbass Arena, he’s going to be ready for one specific question: is he the new Ronaldinho, as he’s been dubbed in the past, or the new Anderson? All three started at Gremio’s academy, one of the most traditional in Brazil.
None of them spent much time in the first team, however, and left for Europe early. Ronaldinho became one of the best footballers in the world while Anderson... well, he’s now back at Gremio’s main rival, Internacional.
Costa is clear about which man to follow. “Ronaldinho has always been my idol and it would be incredible to have the chance to emulate what he did for bigger teams,” he says, wide-eyed. “I wouldn’t think twice if a transfer proposal comes up.”
Overlooked by United
Costa’s name isn't new to the Premier League. Sir Alex Ferguson used to rate him as one of the brightest young talents in South America, and sent scouts to watch him in Brazil. At the same time, United also had other youngsters on their radar, among them a rising Colombian called James Rodríguez, who was shining for Argentine outfit Banfield.
“Jose Mayorga [United's man in Argentina] loved James,” says Marcelo Teixeira, a former Reds scout in Brazil. “He had always included his name in his files, but the evaluation was that his profile didn’t suit the Premier League. Basically, he hadn't got the speed required for English football. The chief scout [Jim Lawlor] regarded Maylson [now playing for Brazilian minor sides] higher than Douglas Costa and James.”
In the end, Shakhtar Donetsk and Villarreal were the only sides that tried to buy the then-19-year-old Costa, who had led Brazil to a South American youth championship title back in 2009. The rest is all history now – but in his future he hopes to write new chapters under a special coach.
“I’d be really interested in moving to Chelsea – not only because everything Willian tells me about the club, but because I think that I’d be able to achieve everything I want having someone like Jose Mourinho by my side,” he said.
“Since I left Brazil, I have worked with a marvellous coach [Mircea Lucescu] and got an idea of how much influence such a good professional can have in your football. Now I think it’s time to try a new philosophy and I’m sure that Mourinho's is the best around He’s always fighting for trophies.
“Besides that, I’d have the chance to play in the Premier League, the best league in the world. What really impresses me is that you never know which team will win – that’s a factor that always keeps athletes motivated.”
There's no doubting that the player is keen. But is London calling for Costa?
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