It was quite evident that change was needed in the Mumbai City FC dugout after their dismal season in the Indian Super League last time around. The team management’s decision to turn to former Portuguese international Jorge Costa was met with a mostly positive reaction by fans, as he brings a wealth of top-level experience to the side, both as a player as well as in the dugout. We will now have a look at Costa’s career and whether he can help the Islanders challenge for the ISL this season.
It is perhaps the curse of every young Portuguese manager to be called the ‘new Mourinho’, and Costa is no different. His connections with the Manchester United manager go far deeper than just shared nationality though – Costa was Mourinho’s captain at Porto, and he tasted unprecedented success under the ‘Special One’, winning the league, cup, UEFA Cup, and most famously, the UEFA Champions League. He was a centre-back by trade, which goes some way towards explaining his Mourinho-like preference for setting up robust defensive sides. Bicho, as he was known during his playing days, was a typical hard man, preferring an aggressive and physical style of defending which was widespread during the ’90s. Costa also did well in earning 50 caps for the Portuguese national side, forming a formidable partnership with Fernando Couto at Euro 2000 and the 2002 FIFA World Cup. He was also a member of the side which won the U-20 World Cup, all the way back in 1991.
Costa’s playing career thus saw him taste considerable success at the highest level, as Porto’s domestic superiority meant that he won plenty of league and cup titles before Mourinho’s arrival ensured European success as well. However, he was actually on loan to English side Charlton Athletic the season before the ‘Special One’ pitched up, as he had fallen out with then-manager Octavio Machado, who exiled him from the squad. Nevertheless, he had the support of the Porto faithful, who eventually forced Machado out of the club due to his handling of their beloved captain. Another infamous incident from his career was his fight with Ballon d’Or winner George Weah in the 1996/97 Champions League – the Milan player was allegedly stamped on by Costa as he scored in the San Siro in a game which the Italian side lost 3-2. The return leg saw even more drama though, as following an altercation in the tunnel after the game, it emerged that the Liberian had headbutted Costa, breaking his nose. Weah claimed that this was in response to racist abuse from Costa, but no evidence was found and UEFA banned Weah for six Champions League games for this assault. Weah’s apology to Costa was rebuffed as well, who sued him for defamation instead.
Jorge Costa ended his playing career at Standard Liege in Belgium, leaving Porto in 2006 after being deemed surplus to requirements by new manager Co Adriaanse. His managerial career has failed to match the heights of his playing career so far – Mumbai are his 12th club in 11 years as a coach. His greatest achievements include guiding SC Braga to fourth place in the league in his first season as manager, along with winning the second division and thereby promotion with SC Olhanense in 2009. After briefly announcing his retirement from coaching in 2010, he returned to the game with Romania’s CFR Cluj, where he won the first division title. He also managed Cluj in the Champions League, before spells with AEL Limassol and Anorthosis Famagusta. Costa has experience with a national side as well, taking charge of Gabon between 2014 and 2016, where he could only guide them to a group-stage exit at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. Underwhelming spells with CS Sfaxien and Arouca followed before the Portuguese landed in India for his latest adventure.
What can fans expect from this mercurial manager? Mumbai City captain Lucian Goian and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh have stated that Costa’s focus so far has been on defensive solidity, and this was reflected by the team’s transfer choices as well, bringing in some of the best defenders in the ISL in recent years ahead of the new campaign. While the defence undoubtedly needs to be improved, Costa will have to focus on an underwhelming attack as well, which scored only 25 goals in 18 games last season. Fans can expect Mumbai to try and keep possession, after Costa stated that he, like the Spanish coaches in the league, also wants to have the ball. However, expect his sides to be well-drilled and definitely not as defensively inept as last season; Bicho is sure to use all the experience of his playing days to ensure that Mumbai will be a stubborn side to score against.