Last week, reports surfaced that West Ham and Everton have been regular visitors to Molineux of late to eye Wolves’ 23-year-old midfielder Helder Costa.
Having enjoyed a highly successful six months on loan from Benfica, Costa completed a permanent move to Wolves back in January for a club record fee of £13 million.
But the midlands club included a £25 million release clause in the player’s contract which means that the club will be forced to accept any bids meeting the valuation.
Costa has achieved an impressive 10 goals and 8 assists in 30 games across all competitions this season, and the creative winger is likely to become hot property when the summer transfer window reopens in July – especially after his recent performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Here’s what Wolves icon Dave Edwards had to say about him:
“He is, since I’ve been here, the best player I’ve seen. He’s so robust, he takes tackles well, but his pace and his final product… he’s got everything. Benfica must have some wingers if they can let him go!”
Who is Helder Costa?
Born in Luanda, capital of the central African nation of Angola, Costa moved to Portugal at a young age. He was spotted by Benfica as a 10-year-old and quickly joined the Lisbon club’s renowned academy. He signed his first professional contract with Benfica in 2012.
Age 18, Costa was promoted to Benfica B’s squad. The pacey wideman was in and out of the side in his first season and made 12 appearances without scoring a goal. But Costa’s following two seasons in a Benfica B shirt saw him turn things around and score 15 goals in 60 appearances.
His impressive ability to score goals from midfield soon attracted the attention of Deportivo manager Víctor Sánchez, who completed a loan move for Costa in 2015. But Costa failed to make a lasting impact in Spain and made just 6 league appearances.
Benfica quickly recalled Costa and sent him on loan to Monaco, where he proved he was ready for first team opportunities after making 25 league appearances and scoring three goals in the process.
It came as a shock then when Costa was sent out on loan to Wolves earlier this season. Under then manager Walter Zenga he played 15 games, assisting 2 goals and scoring 3 in a relatively impressive start. When Zenga was sacked and replaced by Paul Lambert in November, Costa’s form noticeably picked up and the Portuguese youth international assisted 6 and scored 7 in just 15 appearances.
His eye-catching form prompted Wolves to make the deal permanent in January for £13 million. On his debut as a permanent Wolves player, Costa rewarded the club’s faith with a goal against Championship strugglers Burton Albion.
What is his style of play?
Costa is a versatile attacking midfielder who can play across the lines behind a striker. He has mostly featured out on the right-hand side for Wolves this term but is comfortable on the left as well as pulling strings in the middle.
He is an attacking midfielder more in the mould of a young Dimitri Payet or Ivan Perisic than a David Silva or a Juan Mata. He is most comfortable sitting narrow and having room to cut inside to pull strings in the middle.
He is a fast and exciting player who is increasingly able to back up his raw ability with real technical talent. He is a stand out player in the Championship when it comes to the key traits of an attacking midfielder – be they dribbling, crossing, playing key passes or beating his man.
What is he good at?
When Costa really thrives is when he is on the ball. His dribbling is a joy to behold and it’s no rare sight to see him beat two or three players in one sweeping move. Skilful dribbling is a useful trait to possess but if backed up by acceleration, which Costa has in abundance, it can lead to points on its own. Costa’s frequent drawing of fouls is proof of his ability to shift the ball quickly and efficiently.
His ability to rack up assists is also proof of a killer instinct. He frequently completes key passes to his teammates and is unselfish for a winger. He is always looking to offload the ball for one-twos as well as attempting early crosses into the box. With an impressive 83% of his passes this season made forward, he is always looking to make things happen.
Just because Costa is an attacking midfielder doesn’t mean he isn’t into getting his hands dirty. His tenacity in the tackle is another trait which sets him apart from many other widemen.
Arguably Costa’s number one strength is his ability to cut inside and cause problems between the lines. His goal against QPR is the perfect illustration of this abilities:
How could he improve?
There are a number of areas of Costa’s game which he could improve, and at 23-years-old he has time. His ability in the air leaves much to be desired, but at 1.78m in height he can be forgiven for lacking in any sort of aerial ability.
It’s Costa’s ability in possession which really lets him down and might dissuade the very best teams from taking a looking at him. Costa is a high tempo player who performs well in attack and defence, but his lightning attitude doesn’t translate well in terms of keeping hold of the ball.
Gifted dribblers such as Costa are often culprits for giving the ball away, and Costa has a certain tendency to try and take things too far at times. His knack for playing key passes doesn’t always pay off and it’s not uncommon to see one of his balls needlessly intercepted.
In the Championship, Costa’s high tempo, risk-taking demeanour pays off thanks to his superiority to the vast majority of players in the league. But if given a chance in the Premier League, he simply has to work on this part of his game to expect to make it to the top. He certainly has it in him.