So what is happening these days to one of the stars of Wolves’ side at the start of the Fosun era? Craig Hanson reports on a man who hardly appears to be full of life’s joys……
There was a moment in one of Valencia’s latest La Liga wins that best sums up Helder Costa’s mood.
Despite being part of a team that won 4-3 in an extraordinary encounter against Levante, the former Wolves man looked like he would rather be somewhere else as the team gathered for a celebratory huddle after a goal.
It’s worth pointing out that it was also a valuable goal in Valencia’s season in the quest for a European place. Los Murciélagos’ form has been taking a downturn and they are priced at 44/1 to finish in the coveted Champions League places in the Space Casino betting on football so maybe a Europa League spot is a more realistic target.
Still, though, the success wasn’t enough for Costa to crack a smile and even after he swapped Leeds for Spain’s east coast, it seems the winger is finding it difficult to enjoy himself.
Perhaps he was fretting about where Valencia would ship him off to once his move from Elland Road becomes permanent. He doesn’t look like a man at ease, judging by those team celebrations.
Is it a case of once bitten, twice shy for the Angolan international? He was the leading light of Wolves’ Championship side a few years ago, although he then lost his Molineux star billing to Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota as Nuno Espirito Santo put his mark on a previously underperforming club.
Costa was allowed to leave Wolves in 2019 after a year in the Premier League that didn’t meet expectations of him. To his credit and without a fuss, he set off up the M1 and helped take Premier League football to West Yorkshire as well
At the time of this loan move, Leeds had committed to signing him permanently at the end of the season but Marcelo Bielsa did not take a liking to Costa’s role in his Premier League side and, after a season of only 23 appearances, allowed him to join Valencia on loan with a view to a sale.
Maybe the player, who turned 28 last week, can see where this is going and explains why he looked less interested when his team scored against Levante.
It is already two and a half seasons since he left Molineux but it’s still a shame to see the man who played such an integral role in Wolves’ side and gave such joy a few years ago looking so deflated.
You could even argue that some of Costa’s moments of magic on the wing – during the 2016-17 campaign especially – helped Wolves take on the image of a flamboyant attacking team who steamrollered their way to the Championship title following the major Portuguese influx.
Anyone remember this stand-out moment from sitting in the freezing away end at QPR on the December 1, 2016? It was a time when Wolves were treading water under Paul Lambert and the football wasn’t great. But in the 66th minute, the mood brightened.
Costa picked up the ball on the right before turning a host of defenders in and out. By the time he eventually shaped to shoot with his right foot, there were several Rangers men lying in his wake, desperately hoping he would miss and spare their blushes. He didn’t.
Costa’s brilliance was undoubtedly the start of the Wolves revolution and tellingly, Molineux is the stadium where he has spent the longest time of his career. Sadly it is also the place where a trend began to develop which, if you watch any La Liga these days, will see that this said cycle is beginning to take its toll on the winger’s joie de vivre.