MADRID (AP) — Because he was born in Brazil but opted to play for Spain, 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 the country that adopted him. Like Costa, Senna also was born in Brazil but played his international football for Spain. He expects the furor over the striker's choice of national team and the tug-of-war for him between Spain and Brazil to soon blow over.
"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 Hungarian pair Ferenc Puskas and Laszlo Kubala.
Costa moved to Europe in 2005, signing first with Portuguese club Penafiel and then moving around Spain with spells at Celta Vigo, Valladolid, Rayo Vallecano and now Atletico Madrid. He has scored 17 goals in 18 games for Atletico this season. That reliability makes Costa an interesting alternative for Spain to Fernando Torres, who is so erratic with Chelsea.
The 23-year-old Costa also has a gritty streak not found in all of Spain's players. "Diego has a particular character that makes up a big part of his game," Senna said. Costa played a few minutes for Brazil in friendlies against Russia and Italy in March but never in an official competitive match, leaving him eligible for Spain.
A leg muscle injury prevented him from making his debut for Spain on Saturday against Equatorial Guinea. His next chance will come on March 5 when Spain plays an international friendly 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." He was the 40th naturalized player to do so. "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, to represent the five-time world champions in a World Cup in Brazil."
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."
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