Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata has hailed his Spain international teammate Diego Costa, who is poised to complete a £32 million transfer to Chelsea from Atletico Madrid this summer. Mata believes Costa thoroughly deserves his place in Vicente del Bosque’s World Cup squad - and has tipped the striker to play a starring role for the reigning world champions over the next few weeks.
Spain have often resorted to playing with a ‘False 9’ over the last two years because of their lack of an in-form out-and-out goalscorer. Fernando Torres was Spain’s main man prior to 2011, when he suffered a dramatic loss in form and confidence following his £50 million move to Stamford Bridge.
Torres remains part of the Spain squad, but it’s Costa who is expected to lead the line for Del Bosque’s side in Brazil, and Mata believes he can replicate his club form on the world stage this summer.
“In principle, he’s different,' Mata is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. “If you ask the strikers who have played for Spain over the last few years they will tell you that it’s a very hard job. The way that Spain plays makes it difficult for them.
“That is why Cesc [Fabregas] or [David] Silva have played in attack and it’s been a good solution. But I think Costa can bring what he has brought to Atletico. Goals. That’s the fundamental thing: goals, goals, goals.
“He can battle with the central defenders. He can receive the ball with his back to goal and bring others in. He can get behind defences although that is harder when you play for Spain because teams sit so deep.
“But he played fantastically this season. His team has played incredibly well and he was often their most important player. He’s done enough to be called up, that’s for sure.”
Costa’s decision to represent Spain caused huge controversy last year. The 25-year-old had previously played for his native Brazil in two friendly matches, but eventually opted for the Spanish national team after being overlooked for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Confederations Cup squad.
The Atletico Madrid star, who scored 36 goals in 52 appearances for the La Liga champions last season, says he chose to represent Spain because it is the country that “gave him everything”. However, he is expected to receive a hostile reception from the Brazilian public wherever he goes in his homeland this summer, and was even labelled a traitor by several spectators during a training session this week.
But Costa has the character to thrive under such intense pressure, hence why Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has given the green light for the Blues to active the forward’s release clause. He could be announced as a Chelsea player in the coming days following confirmation that Barcelona star - and a Spain colleague of Costa and Mata’s - Cesc Fabregas has sealed a move to Stamford Bridge.
A spine comprised of Thibaut Courtois, John Terry and Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic and Fabregas, with Costa leading the line could even make Chelsea the 2014/15 Premier League favourites come the start of the new campaign.