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Diego Costa, disruption up front

AS AS 27/05/2014 Alfredo Relaño

All the devils and all the doubts of the Spanish World Cup squad selection are brought together in Diego Costa. To start with, he’s not Spanish, strictly, though his papers, and something more, say he is. He was born in Brazil, came of age in Portugal and was soon here in Spain, with Atlético. He then completed loan spells at Albacete, Valladolid, Celta and Rayo. Everywhere he went he made a mark as a fine striker, with a boorish touch to him that his quality never quite justified... or maybe it did. And the more he’s played, the more he’s justified it. Intrepid, aggressive, insolent. Disruptive, to use a new term.

Disruptive because he’s appeared in a position where we’ve been living with an unreal consensus. Del Bosque took us to the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine with doubts about who would play as centre-forward. More than that in fact; the doubt was whether we’d play with one or not. And we played the whole Euros like that, toying with the idea of having a classic number ‘9’ or not. During the Championships I remembered the ‘floating’ ‘9’s great football has given us: Sindelaar, Hidegkutti, Di Stéfano, Cruyff... But, a miracle! We played without one and a number ‘9’, Torres, was top scorer. Football!

Diego Costa is a great number ‘9’. He’s tough, likely to get involved in the danger area among the crocodiles of the opposing defence, of whom he’s never frightened. He’s as aggressive as the most thuggish defender. And he’s a great counter-attacker. But there’s a problem: he’s got an injured hamstring and had the dream, almost infantile, that a phony Serbian doctor could cure him in record time. And no, miracles don’t exist. They’re in the Bible. Diego Costa is still carrying his injury and the muscle that the horse placenta didn’t cure is the centre of all the doubts about Del Bosque’s list for the World Cup.

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