THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Striker won't represent hosts at World Cup

icon diegocosta5 November ~ "I offer [him] the chance to be a world champion. It's he who decides." Rejecting such an offer from Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari might seem unthinkable but Diego Costa did it last week. To the surprise of Scolari and the Brazilian FA (CBF) the Atlético Madrid striker, born in Lagarto, Brazil, decided to opt out of playing for his home country, and presumably will make his debut with Spain in one of the friendly matches they'll play in the next couple of weeks. The decision might seem a strange one.

One of the best strikers of the moment chooses not to play for the hosts of the next World Cup in favour of a team with such strong competition for his position: Spain have David Villa, Fernando Torres, Álvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado, Michu and Fernando Llorente. Costa, now 25, has been living in Spain since he was 19. He has been all over the country on loan before earning his spot at Atlético Madrid, where he is now shining in the Champions League.

Costa has explained his choice by saying Spain has given him "everything" after nearly six years. The decision is a recent one, though. Costa was called up by Scolari last February to play two friendlies for Brazil. "It's a dream I've had all my life and now it's come true. I still can't believe it. I'm so happy," he said then. He played only 35 minutes over both games, and despite ending the season in really good form with Atlético – they won the Spanish cup – he was ignored by Scolari for the Confederations Cup squad. This seemed to spur Costa to consider his options.

An alternative presented itself in July, when the Spanish government granted him a passport. Shortly after, paperwork was set in place to make a national team call-up possible – Costa was eligible having not played in competitive matches for Brazil – and Vicente del Bosque promised him a starting spot.

A sensational start of this season, scoring 15 goals in 15 matches, made Scolari notice the player again. Besides his promise of making a world champion out of Costa, Scolari declared that the striker's decision would mean "turning his back to the dream of millions of Brazilians", even though the Brazil coach himself called up the Brazilian-born Deco and Pepe in his spell in charge of Portugal.

The conflict became nearly a diplomatic incident, and Costa was called "a traitor to the nation". Finally Costa formally declined to be selected for Brazil in a letter, a move which placed his Brazilian passport at risk, according to the legal director of the CBF, Carlos Eugenio Lopes. Such an action seems highly unlikely, but Costa can expect plenty of booing in the event of a Brazil v Spain match next summer. Antonio Mateo

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