Diego Costa has confirmed that he wishes to represent Spain, not Brazil, at international level after signing a legal document which will be presented to the Brazilian Federation.
Joaquin Maroto of AS.com reports that the document was signed before a notary—where all legal documents in Spain must be prepared and signed to bind—with the Atletico Madrid striker intent on rejecting any call-up from Felipe Scolari to play for the nation of his birth.
While it is not yet entirely certain that FIFA will accept this as evidence that Brazil have no longer any claim to the striker, it is certainly a big step forward for the Spanish national team—and Diego Costa could turn out to be their best addition to the squad to help them win the World Cup next year, which of course takes place in Brazil.
False 9's and No Fixed Striker
Playing without a main central striker has been a tactical factor of curiosity, annoyance and incredulity to fans, depending on their stance on the Spanish national team and the notion of tiki-taka football.
While Fernando Torres and David Villa were, for a long time, the two forwards without rival, the lack of playing time and form for both over the past couple of seasons forced Vicente del Bosque into looking at alternatives.
As such, both Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado have been deployed in the No. 9 role at times, but often, it has been Cesc Fabregas who takes up the most advanced attacking position as the false nine. With Cesc, Spain look to see him drop deep, become involved in link-up play and look to exploit the spaces he leaves around and beyond the opposition centre-backs by having other attackers make late runs into the penalty area.
Fernando Llorente and, going even further back, Dani Guiza have also had intermittent spells as the central striker, but Torres and Cesc have been the main two who have alternated as Spain played with, and without, a real no. 9.
If Diego Costa does indeed go on to represent Spain, there is little doubt that he could be their best offensive option to play that role, being capable of leading the line and of dropping deeper or working the channels to aid build-up phases of play.
Diego Costa's Scintillating Season
Just over a quarter of the way through the season, Atletico Madrid sit second in La Liga with nine wins and 26 goals from 10 matches. Much of that is thanks to Costa, who leads the Pichichi (top scorer) standings with 11 strikes to his name.
Yes, that's three goals ahead of both Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at present.
Since then, in addition to his league goals, he has also notched two in the Champions League, leading to the intense battle between Brazil and Spain for his international affiliation. He has already played twice for Brazil—but both games, the last of which was more than three years ago, were friendlies.
B/R's Sam Tighe highlights how Costa's ability to run with the ball, be heavily involved in Atleti's build-up play and his capacity to work the entire width of the pitch has helped at club level; Spain would benefit in largely the same way from the forward's presence, as his non-stop movement and work-rate is of vital importance in a possession-based, patient approach to opening up defences.
He might not end as the league's top scorer, but if he manages anything like a goal per game for the rest of the season, every nation heading to the World Cup next year would love to have a striker in that kind of form on their squad.
The Two to Miss Out?
If Diego Costa plays for Spain, it's entirely likely that Cesc Fabregas doesn't, at least for this tournament. Beyond that, there may well be a bit of a changing of the guard, but right now, the midfield three are more or less sorted—Sergio Busquets, Xavi and, depending on fitness, Xabi Alonso or Andres Iniesta—but that central attacking role is up for grabs.
He'll certainly still have a place in the squad though—which is more than can be said for another striker.
If Costa is in, someone else misses the plane.
Spain's forwards have been rotated in and out of the squad according to form or need by del Bosque, with Torres missing out the odd squad in 2013, Negredo missing the Confederations Cup and Soldado missing from the most recent one.
It is likely that only two pure centre-forwards will travel, with del Bosque packing his attack with versatile, technical forwards rather than strikers, so Costa-plus-one will make for uncomfortable reading for some of the more established strikers on the squad.
On the other hand, if they had already proven themselves indispensable to the national team, there wouldn't be all this furore over Diego Costa's inclusion—which goes to prove how much Spain need him.