x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Atletico’s Costa brewing up a storm in Spain

The Brazilian striker is best in the league and is even sought by Spain, writes Andy Mitten.

Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa has got Spanish residency and may play for them in Brazil. Dani Pozo / AFP
Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa has got Spanish residency and may play for them in Brazil. Dani Pozo / AFP

The big two players in Spain can dominate the headlines as much as the clubs they play for.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are number one and two in the world, yet the best player in Spain so far this season is Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa.

He has scored eight league goals this season, the same as the much-lauded Messi.

The volatile, fleet-heeled Brazilian was played out of position last season to accommodate and complement Radamel Falcao. Now he has replaced him.

Costa, 24, keeps improving, calming his temper, finding better positions and making headlines, and in David Villa, he has an intelligent, experienced foil for him.

Costa coolly scored the only goal in the Madrid derby as Atletico beat their neighbours Real in the league for the first time this century last Saturday.

They also bested them at the Bernabeu in the Copa del Rey final in May, a competition in which Costa was the top scorer.

That win gave an improving Atletico even more confidence, which has carried on into this season.

Diego Simeone’s side have won all seven Spanish Primera Liga games and both Uefa Champions League matches to date, with Tuesday’s 2-1 victory at Porto the latest impressive result.

They have already held Barcelona home and away in the Spanish Super Cup.

Costa, who came to Europe when he signed for Braga in Portugal at the age of 18, has represented Brazil twice in friendlies this year, yet he was granted Spanish residency in July after six years in the country.

The Spanish Football Association have made a request to Fifa that they can call him up to their full squad.

They are confident of clearing the red tape with coach Vicente Del Bosque hinting that he could play in their two remaining World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Georgia.

The European and world champions need four points to reach the finals in Brazil next year.

Del Bosque said: “He’s doing well enough to be called up and his character wouldn’t be a problem. He gives me the impression that he is a good guy. He has great spirit.”

Brazil could regret their decision not to call him up for a competitive game.

They now face the spectre of a Brazilian winning the World Cup in Brazil. While playing for Spain.

Atletico fans just hope that whatever happens, he remains in their colours as things play out on the international front.