Vicente del Bosque’s squad announcement was always going to cause rumblings, such is the talent he has at his disposal. High-profile casualties were inevitable and Diego Costa was just one of those.
“We have two players per position. We preferred to bring people who are healthy,” Del Bosque said when questioned over the Brazilian-born striker’s omission. Uncertainty over Costa’s fitness was indeed fair, the Chelsea striker suffering a recurrence of a hamstring problem in a recent match against Sunderland.
The injury ruled him out of his side’s last two matches of the season and was seemingly the knockout blow to his hopes of getting selected. Nevertheless, Del Bosque did include Real Madrid striker Lucas Vazquez despite his injury, and it begs the question as to whether Diego Costa was already on his way down.
Of course it was the current Spain Coach who sat down with Costa in 2013 and persuaded him to change allegiance. It’s fair to say, however, that since deciding to wear red, Costa hasn’t been able to win over the fans of his newly-adopted country.
It took him over 550 minutes to find his first goal for Spain, breaking an unwanted record in the process. That period covered the 2014 World Cup in his home nation Brazil – much to their fans delight- and his performances there left many in Spain frustrated.
A year later, in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovakia, he was jeered off the pitch by a group of supporters when substituted and has since become something of a forgotten man for La Roja.
Unfortunately for Costa, Spain do seem to play better when he’s not on the pitch. One of his main attributes is his running behind the opposition defence, but with countries often sitting deep when facing the reigning champions, he struggles to have an impact.
It hasn’t helped Costa that he also missed the last few friendlies for Spain through injury, and although it was denied as the cause for one of his exclusions, Del Bosque did publicly criticise Costa’s behaviour after the incident with Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista.
His form for his club this season has also managed to wind up fans, with many of them believing he only started trying once the self-professed ‘Special One’ was sacked. The stats do back them up, Costa scoring four goals in his opening 22 matches under Jose Mourinho’s guidance. Under Gus Hiddink, he netted nine times in 14 matches and finished the season with a respectable 16 goals across all competitions.
With Spain in a period of transition and the importance of youth ever emphasised, Costa’s role for his nation may be coming to an anticlimactic end. He’ll have to perform to a very high standard over the next two seasons if he is to be considered for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
By then he’ll be nearing 30, and the likes of Alvaro Morata, Paco Alcacer and Inaki Williams may have established themselves as the spearheads of Spanish football.