Fernando Torres, Chelsea’s record 50 million pound ($82.
84 million) signing, could not even command a place on the bench as Costa was scoring on his Stamford Bridge debut in the 2-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday, a victory which maintained the club’s perfect start to the season.
At the launch of his fifth season for Chelsea and having turned 30 in March, the dropping of Torres felt almost symbolic of his slide from the giddy heights of his Atletico Madrid and Liverpool heyday.
With the 32 million pound man Costa marking his territory with a second goal in as many games and as the returning 36-year-old hero Didier Drogba was being welcomed back ecstatically, was Mourinho preparing to consign Torres’ largely disappointing Chelsea career to history?
Not at all, according to the manager.
Chelsea still needed three top strikers in their squad and Torres, even if his record of five goals in 28 league appearances last season contrasts starkly with Costa’s immediate 100 percent strike rate, would be that ‘third man’.
Happy to dispel persistent rumours that Torres might be on his way to a loan spell with a top Italian club, Mourinho instead offered an unforced tribute to both the player’s abilities and character, insisting Spain’s former World Cup winner still had plenty more Chelsea goals in him.
“I want three strikers in the team. I can’t do a season without three strikers so our squad was made carefully, with great balance, great work by the top structure of my club to try to give me with what I want,” Mourinho explained.
“Torres is one of those three strikers. “I believe he’ll stay. I want him. He will play, he will score goals, he will be very useful for us. He’s a fantastic guy, a fantastic professional. So no problem. “At this moment, we are playing one game a week but in September, October, November, December, there’ll be three matches a week and then everything is much easier for the players because all of them will be playing. So there is not stories with Nando or anyone.”
Asked what Torres had to do to establish himself as the club’s number one striker, Mourinho’s message, delivered with a smile, was stark.
“Score more goals than the first one,” he said.
For the moment, that ‘first one’ is Costa and Mourinho was delighted with his initial impact.
“He’s a goalscorer,” the Portuguese added.
“The goals he scored against both Leicester and (in the 3-1 win at) Burnley are striker goals. He smashes and he scores. This is what we need. We need a striker to score goals and Diego is doing that for us.”
Costa’s old Atletico team mate Thibaut Courtois is also making a major impact for Chelsea with Mourinho having entrusted the goakeeping duties to him ahead of the long established Petr Cech.
His excellent save from Leicester’s David Nugent ultimately proved as important as Costa’s breakthrough goal in the victory.
Talking of the difficulty of having to choose between the experience and excellence of the 32-year-old Cech and the exciting promise of the young Belgian, Mourinho told the BBC “Match of the Day” programme: “I love my players and respect them but I try always to be super professional and try always to think about my club before my players.
“The point here is not the quality, because Petr is an amazing goalkeeper. What made me have this decision was the fact that the kid (Courtois) is 22, a kid who has only two years on his contract.
If he doesn’t play for Chelsea, he is a free agent. I made a decision for the team. The kid is answering in a fantastic way.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)