By Craig Scott

10th Mar, 2020 | 4:12pm

MOT View: Enigmatic £32,500-a-wk Leeds player has left us scratching our heads all season

Leeds United are flying high, on a five-match winning streak with no goals conceded, top of the Championship and finally bearing down on a return to the Premier League. 

It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? You’d find it hard to pick any flaws in performances of late based on that but that simply isn’t the case.

After Leeds beat Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield 2-0 at Elland Road to move top of the table on Saturday, Helder Costa was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from fans and even ex-Whites striker Noel Whelan.

While you can understand that fans are always bound to pick out the negatives – some people thrive on doom and gloom – the fact that Leeds cheerleader Whelan had to pick out Costa’s display says a lot.

Speaking on BBC Radio Leeds after the win over Huddersfield, Whelan let rip at Costa, claiming that the Portuguese winger was “very, very poor” and “might not be good enough” for the Premier League.

It says a lot that straight after a comfortable derby victory that Whelan was compelled to slam Costa. Maybe it was because the ex-striker sees the Premier League as being in sight for Leeds now and is worried about the squad that Marcelo Bielsa will have at his disposal once getting there?

Costa is a loanee at Elland Road at the moment but the Yorkshire giants have already agreed to sign him permanently for £15million this summer, according to the Daily Mail.

That’s a lot of money for a player who has been so enigmatic in the Championship this term.

Just when you think Costa’s form is on the up, he’ll either have a quiet game or struggle to get anything right in the attack.

In his 37 Championship appearances this season, Costa has scored three goals and supplied six assists.

He’s played in every single one of Leeds’ league fixtures but has been directly involved in just 10 per cent of their goals.

Compare that with West Brom’s Matheus Pereira, who has been playing on the right-wing a lot lately. He’s been directly involved in 34 per cent of Albion’s goals this term with six goals and 16 assists in three fewer outings than Costa.

Costa’s form seems to fluctuate a lot.

Everyone was calling for him to start earlier in the season when he had to wait for his spot in Bielsa’s starting line-up as he impressed in appearances off the bench. Then his form slowly started to dip all the way until the Whites’ rut around the festive period.

As Leeds escape that bad run of form, Costa got better and better and finally started to show the signs of a player who could be worth £15million.

But now, even though Bielsa’s side are performing well, creating a lot of chances and winning games, Costa’s taken a backwards step in terms of his form.

According to stats by WyScout, Costa lost possession 14 times against Huddersfield with his season-average being 10.67 times per game.  He completed 20 per cent of his crosses versus the Terries when his season-average is 25.8 per cent and was successful with 50 per cent of his dribbles, down from his average of 55.3 per cent.

On the WhoScored website, Costa ranks eighth in the Leeds squad for shots at goal per league game [1.5], which is fewer than Ezgjan Alioski and Stuart Dallas, who’ve played a lot as full-backs this term.

Costa ranks joint-eighth for key passes per appearance [0.9] – fewer than Alioski and Adam Forshaw.

As for dribbles, Costa is bested only by Jack Harrison for average per Championship appearance [1.4] but as you can see, what he does at the end of those dribbles is usually not much of note.

He ranks 10th in the Leeds squad for the number of average crosses completed per game [0.2], which really is poor for a winger who’s played in every single league match.

Costa still needs to prove he is Premier League quality.

You would imagine that Leeds United would have to match, or better, his £32,500-a-week contract [Spotrac] with Wolves to sign him, as well as that £15million permanent fee that’s been pre-agreed.

Leeds are bound to be financially better off next season if they make it to the Premier League but that is an awful lot of money to be spending on someone who has struggled to be consistent in the Championship.

Costa has a lot to prove over the coming weeks because if Andrea Radrizzani invests a lot of money into the squad, Victor Orta and Bielsa are bound to want a more consistent winger who is able to get crosses into the box, who is able to get assists and who is able to score goals.

In other Leeds United news, Leeds want to sign this West Ham midfielder.