Last month, Douglas Costa posted a picture of himself in a Galaxy jersey on social media. Last week, Costa’s Wikipedia page listed him as a Galaxy player. And Tuesday, after arriving on a United flight from Rio de Janeiro through Houston, he headed straight to the Galaxy’s offices to meet with club officials, then went to a Lakers game with his wife.
So it was a bit anticlimactic Thursday when the Galaxy announced that Costa, a Brazilian international who has played with three of the biggest clubs in Europe, has agreed to a deal with the MLS club through the 2023 season.
Costa, who was with Grêmio in Brazil’s second division on loan from Juventus, will finish out the loan with the Galaxy this summer, then play the next year and a half under contract to the team. Financial details of the agreement were not announced, but it is reportedly worth at least $5 million. Costa, 31, will occupy both a designated player and international roster slot.
Costa made 31 appearances for Brazil, including two off the bench in the 2018 World Cup, and played in more than 400 games in all competitions in 13 seasons in Europe, where he won 22 trophies with Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayern Munich and Juventus. But because of injuries that had him considering retirement before he turned 30, Costa has appeared in more than 27 games in a domestic league season just once.
Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said the team is aware of Costa’s history and believe he is worth the gamble.
“None of us are under the impression that he’s going to go through an entire season and won’t have a soft tissue injury here or there,” Vanney said. “We’ve spoken to physicians at his clubs, where he’s been before. We do so much homework and groundwork. He’s a Ferrari, he’s not a long-range car. And he’s learning more about himself in the process, about what his needs are and what his work workload should be.
“We want to work with him to try to maximize his minutes and maximize his opportunities on the field. So we feel good about where we’re at.”
Vanney said Costa is comfortable with any attacking role, whether on either wing or in the center of the field, where the Galaxy are thin. He will most likely team up front with Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, the team’s leading scorer last season, and Kévin Cabral.
“He’s almost unmarkable,” Vanney said. “You can’t get close to him because he’s so shifty and quick that he’ll beat you if you get too close. If you stand too far off, he can play the pass that hurts you. It means that teams, they’re going to have to defend us differently.
“You can’t allow your defender, against a Douglas Costa, just to be one-on-one and get taken to the cleaners all day. You have to figure out how to defend that [so] somewhere else on the field, there’s a numerical advantage, or somewhere else on the field, there’s more space for somebody. It just changes things for us. It gives us a lot of opportunities to do different things.”
Costa’s presence gives the Galaxy one of the most talented players in the league, one who is strong and powerful with either foot and has uncommon speed and agility. He also moves well with or without the ball, but he’s an especially adept dribbler when in possession.
His discipline, mentality and consistency, however, have been questioned almost as much as his durability, making his signing something of a risk despite Costa’s obvious abilities.
The team took a similar gamble and lost with midfielder Gio dos Santos, another supremely skilled player who struggled with fitness and motivation before the Galaxy bought out the final year of his contract in 2019. Vanney said he’s not expecting a repeat of that with Costa.
“He’s super motivated to come and show that he has that capacity and he can be a difference-maker. And he wants to win a championship with his fourth country now,” the coach said. “So we’re excited about that.”