Atlético striker Diego Costa, whose remarkable play in recent months caught the eye of Brazilian national team manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, gave a refreshingly candid interview on Monday ahead of the Seleção’s friendlies against Italy in Geneva and Russia in London.
Costa was called-up for international duties for the first time, but suffered an ankle sprain in Atleti’s defeat of Osasuna in Pamplona on Sunday.
Despite the knock, the ‘Beast of the Manzanares’ travelled to Switzerland to join his compatriots.
If he recovers from injury in time, he may have the opportunity to introduce his uniquely ferocious brand of football to his country.
“90 percent of fans in Brazil don’t know me and I’m aware of that,” Costa admitted to the BBC before offering some details about the early goings of his career.
“I decided I would be a football player when my father baptised me,” he said.
“He named me Diego because of Maradona. My school has been life, the pitch and the ball. I regret that, when I was little, I wasn’t taught to protect my image and respect my coach and teammates. If I would’ve had that guidance, I wouldn’t have made so many mistakes. With that experience, I wouldn’t have done so many stupid things.”
The 24-year-old confessed that he purposely incites his foes.
“I am not a violent player nor am I a cheater, but I am a provocateur,” he said.
“People think that, because of my temperament, they can provoke me to be dismissed. But I’ve learned to turn the tables and now my opponents are the ones shown cards, not me.”
Costa attributes his maturity to learning from past blunders.
“I’ve done a lot of foolish things, but now I realise that it wasn’t the fault of the referees nor of my opponents, but rather, mine,” he said.
“I used to be more temperamental, but now I’m more relaxed. I’ve learned the hard way, but I noticed that I had to either change or I’d always be portrayed as a good player with a hot head.”
He continued: “Defenders hate me because I don’t make life easy for anyone. They complain, but they give me a beating all the time. After the situation with Pepe and Ramos I became the centre of attention, but in a negative way and I know that, now, the referees watch me closer than they do the rest.”
The Rojiblancos’ 2013 goal-scoring leader then addressed the ugly claims made by Sevilla midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia following Atlético’s elimination of the Andalusian side from the Copa del Rey semi-finals three weeks ago.
Kondogbia was shown a red card for a stamp on Costa’s groin area and after the game, alleged he was provoked by the Atleti forward’s monkey chants.
“Those accusations are unfounded,” Costa said.
“In the heat of the game, he could have misinterpreted something. I have black family members and I would never do anything like that.”
Finally, the Beast spoke of his cautious optimism with regard to being tapped by Scolari.
“I’m very happy but I have my feet on the ground and I know that I have to do things well because this call-up could be my first and last.”