World Cup: Spain rely on Costa Bravo

You know you must be doing something right if you are at the centre of a tug-of-war between five-timeWorld Cup winners Brazil and reigning European and world champions Spain.

That is the situation Diego Costa found himself in last year as two of the favourites for this summer's global showpiece went head-to-head for his services. Brazil were the first to make their move for their home-grown striker, giving him two friendly appearances at the start of 2013.

It was Costa's adopted nation of Spain - where he had been playing his club football for six years - that ultimately won his allegiance and he made his debut for La Furia Roja in February's friendly against Italy.

Physical, direct and abrasive, Costa is not your identikit modern Spain player, but the in-form Atletico Madrid forward could be just the X-factor the holders may need to unlock opposition defences who have become wise to their "tiki-taka" passing style.


That is an opinion shared by Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who said: "He's a big boost for the Spanish team, because he's different to the other strikers.

"He's going to cause a surprise with Spain."

A successful World Cup would cap a stunning year for the 25-year-old that has seen him spearhead Atletico's bid for the Primera Division and Champions League double, scoring more than 35 goals in all competitions.

It has been the best season of what had been a relatively slow-burning career until the past few years and helped catapult Costa into the top bracket of strikers.

While Costa's star is high now, it has not been an easy journey to get to this point for the powerful Lagarto-born hitman. It could have turned out all very differently, but for an incident that happened three years ago.

Following several spells away from Atletico of mixed success, he was deemed surplus to requirements at Los Rojiblancos, who he first joined from Portuguese side Braga in 2007.

Having only shown glimpses of his potential at the Vicente Calderon, the temperamental Costa looked set to be sold to a Turkish club in the summer of 2011 when, just prior to a Europa League qualifier against Stromsgodset, he tore the ligaments in his right knee during training.

Costa said: "The club had accepted an offer and it depended on me. It was a very serious injury.

"I believe in God. We have a destiny, good and bad, and everyone plays it out. I had to start again from zero."

Costa had been dealt a cruel blow, and one that forced him to use all of his determination, perseverance and fighting spirit to recover.

It was a battle that brought out the best in him.

After undergoing surgery and spending six months on the sidelines, Costa joined Atletico's local rivals Rayo Vallecano on loan, and it was there the striker really showed what he could do.

He scored four times in his first three games and ended up with 10 goals in 16 appearances.

It still did not earn him a place in Atletico's plans as therewere three overseas players ahead of him in Simeone's pecking order. He got his head down again in a bid to earn his chance.

He said: "The coach told me he didn't count on me, I understood and I trained.

"My life has always been to fight and battle. It's something I have inside."

Costa is now reaping the benefits of that never-say-die attitude. Having won Simeone over, he established himself as one of Europe's rising talents last season with 20 goals, including one in the Copa del Rey final win over Real Madrid.

Costa remained at Atletico and this term helped Los Rojiblancos enjoy one of the best campaigns in their history - helping them pip Barca to the title.

The season ended with mixed fortunes for Costa, with a hamstring injury limiting him to cameo appearances in the title decider against Barca and Champions League final loss to Real Madrid.

He joined up with the Spain squad despite doubts over his fitness.

Simeone added: "He decides his limit. He must never forget what it has taken to become this player.

"If he doesn't forget all this effort that he has made, he's going to continue growing. He is a player who still has much room to grow."

This article was first published on June 10, 2014.
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