By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Arsenal scouts will travel to Atletico Madrid's two matches this week to run the rule over in-form striker Diego Costa, Goal can reveal.
Arsene Wenger and the Gunners' chief scout Steve Rowley have identified the Brazilian as a potential January target as the Premier League leaders step up plans to reinforce their front line.
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Diego Costa is a key player for Atletico, who are fighting with Barcelona and Real Madrid for the La Liga title and enjoyed a brilliant group stage in the Champions League. The 25-year-old had to work very hard before triumphing at Vicente Calderon, but after Radamel Falcao moved to Monaco last summer he became the star for los Rojiblancos, even above David Villa.
For this reason, Atletico will try to keep him during the winter transfer window. The Spanish club tied him down until 2018 four months ago and they want to wait at least until the next World Cup to sell him because his value could increase even more if he is called up by Vicente del Bosque to play for Spain in Brazil.
However, if Arsenal can pay the release clause, believed to be around £30million, and reach an agreement with the striker then we could see the most impressive signing of the transfer window. But why he would decide to leave a team who are strong contenders for La Liga and capable of going far in the Champions League?
Costa has been in sensational form this season, scoring 22 goals in 21 Atletico games, including 17 in 16 in the league. Costa heads the Primera Division scoring charts alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, seven ahead of their nearest rivals.
The Atletico spearhead signed a new contract in August that extended his agreement until 2018 but it is understood a fresh buy-out clause of around £30 million was inserted in the deal.
Arsenal have made contact with Costa's representatives as they lay the foundations for a serious assault on the January market. They have been alerted to the potential availability of the player, who is believed to be on a relatively low wage at Vicente Calderon.
Olivier Giroud has almost single-handedly led the Gunners' attack this season, with Nicklas Bendtner brought back into the fold in late September to provide the only senior alternative to the Frenchman.
Wenger’s priority remains to capture a top striker after moves for Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain, Stevan Jovetic and Wayne Rooney all fell through last summer, while the Gunners were also unable to agree a last-ditch loan deal for Chelsea’s Demba Ba.
Wenger is well aware of the difficulties in landing A-list options in the notoriously problematic January window, when the big clubs are reluctant to sell their best players.
But he is prepared to push the boat out to land a big name as the Premier League leaders bid to maintain their title challenge.
The manner in which Costa has taken on the Atletico scoring baton left by Radamel Falcao when the Colombian joined Monaco last summer has prompted a tug-of-war for his services between Brazil, the country of his birth, and Spain. Costa played in two friendlies for Brazil earlier this year but, since obtaining dual citizenship, he recently announced his desire to play for Spain and was called up for November friendlies only to pull out through injury.
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