Costa finds ally in choice of Spain over Brazil

Because he was born in Brazil and chose to play for Spain’s
national team, Diego Costa can expect a rough reception from
Brazilian fans at next year’s World Cup.

But Marcos Senna completely understands Costa’s decision to play
for his adopted country.

Like Costa, Senna also was born in Brazil but played for Spain.
He expects the furor over the forward’s choice of national team to
dissipate.

”I don’t see any reason for such polemic,” Senna, a 2008
European Championship winner with Spain, said in a telephone
interview. ”While it is a heated issue right now, I think come the
World Cup, people will be focused on their own teams.”

Dozens of naturalized players have turned out for Spain over the
years. The most famous are Argentina-born Alfredo di Stefano, who
made 31 appearances for Spain, and Hungarians Ferenc Puskas and
Laszlo Kubala.

Costa moved to Europe in 2005, signing first with the Portuguese
club Penafiel and then spending spells in Spain with Celta Vigo,
Valladolid, Rayo Vallecano and now Atletico Madrid.

He has 17 goals in 18 games for Atletico this season. That
reliability makes Costa an interesting alternative for defending
champion Spain, which has watched Fernando Torres’ erratic play
with Chelsea. The 23-year-old Costa also has a gritty streak.

”Diego has a particular character that makes up a big part of
his game,” Senna said.

Costa played a few minutes for Brazil in exhibitions against
Russia and Italy in March but never appeared in a competitive
match, leaving him eligible for Spain – which doesn’t have another
official match until the World Cup in June.

A leg muscle injury prevented him from making his debut for
Spain in Saturday’s exhibition against Equatorial Guinea. His next
chance will come on March 5 when Spain plays an exhibition against
Italy.

Costa said making himself available to Spain was his way of
repaying the country where he’s been successful as a
professional.

”It’s a complicated decision because it’s a decision related to
the country where you were born against the country that has given
you everything,” he said. ”I hope people can understand and
respect this decision, which was very difficult to take.”

Senna said choosing to play for Spain was ”the easiest decision
of my life.”

”From the very first minute, you feel like a privileged person
to be pulling on the jersey,” said Senna, who spent 11 seasons at
Villarreal. ”It’s reciprocal. You want to thank the people with
your on-field play for all the care and attention they show
you.”

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was among those critical of
Costa’s choice. He accused him of turning his back ”on the dream
of millions.”

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has been welcoming.

”Nobody chooses where they are born,” Del Bosque said. ”The
national team is not a closed club, everyone will be well received
here.”

Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter (at)PaulLogoAP