Diego Costa Dilemma: Brazil Will Regret Losing Atletico Madrid Striker to Spain
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has called up Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa for the Selecao Brasileira's final two friendlies of the calendar year against Honduras and Canada. But that call-up came too late as the 25-year-old opted to play for Spain over the country of his birth.
Over the last few weeks Costa had been at the centre of a tug-of-war between his native Brazil and adopted nation Spain, where he has spent the last six years of his career.
The forward has been in excellent form and his goalscoring feats this season merited recognition sooner than Scolari was willing to acknowledge.
Costa made two appearances for Brazil in friendly matches against Italy and Russia in March this year, totalling 25 minutes game time.
That was not sufficient to bind him to his homeland as noises in the nation's press continued to suggest he was ready to ditch the famous yellow shirt to represent the current European and world champions.
The overall feeling in Brazil is that Scolari had left it too late to make his move on one of the world's most sought-after finishers.
And it could turn out to be a huge miscalculation on the part of Big Phil.
Costa missed out on a place in Scolari's FIFA Confederations Cup squad and the manager's decision looked to be vindicated. First-choice striker Fred netted five times, including a brace in the final against Spain.
But the situation has changed over the last four months.
For a start, Fred's club form has been disastrous since his Confederations exploits and he is now out injured, possibly for the rest of the Brazilian season.
Jo, his direct deputy, has scored just five goals in this year's Campeonato Brasileiro, although he was the leading scorer in Atletico Mineiro's Copa Libertadores triumph with seven, as well as bagging three more with the national side in recent outings.
But the fact remains that neither of these two, Scolari's current first choices as the spearhead of a four-man attack, have proved their talent consistently at top domestic level.
Fred spent four years in Ligue 1 with Lyon and Jo is remembered as an expensive gamble that failed to pay off for Manchester City.
The Atletico Mineiro striker is, however, undoubtedly a more mature character than the youngster more accustomed to haunting Manchester nightspots than Premiership penalty areas, but neither he nor Fred is a feared No. 9 in the shape of Ronaldo or even Adriano.
Diego Costa, whilst perhaps unlikely to reach the dizzying heights set by the three-time World Player of the Year, does bear some remarkable resemblances to Adriano, the man once thought to be capable of filling the former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker's boots.
Adriano, for all the god-given talent he has wasted, could have been the man to lead Brazil's attack next year, but three years of over-indulgence and emotional instability has brought its own baggage.
With Scolari's current tactical set-up, Costa could have slipped seamlessly into the side. He looks to be the perfect fit to take advantage of the intricate build-up play and deft touches of Oscar and Neymar.
He is the leading scorer in Spain's La Liga, with 11 goals in 10 matches, three strikes ahead of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
His goal in the UEFA Champions League against Austria Vienna last week was reminiscent of Adriano at his powerful prime. His pace and strength warded off any attempted challenge before a clinical instinct made the end result, once he found himself in front of the goalkeeper, inevitable.
With Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao joining Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco respectively during the summer transfer window, Costa is now, aside from Liverpool's Luis Suarez, the hottest and most in-demand striking property on the planet.
It is doubtful that Brazil anticipated such competition for his services and doubly doubtful they entertained the notion Costa would even think twice of resisting the allure of the most successful country in football history.
The man at the centre of international football's most intriguing soap opera has made up his mind and it is a bitter blow for Scolari, who commented in an interview this afternoon that Diego Costa was "turning his back on the millions of Brazilian people."
It is desperately ironic for Brazil that, at a time when their formation is apparently tailor-made for Costa's qualities, they have lost him to one of their World Cup rivals.
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