“You train the way you play” is an adage as old as the game itself, and Diego Costa is earning plaudits from his Atlético Madrid teammates for the way he applies himself — even those who have known him for years.
“He’s a beast,” Filipe Luís said.
In recent memory, players who signed for clubs during transfer bans struggled to adapt when it came time to lace up the boots; in Arda Turan’s case, it looks to have derailed a promising career. Aleix Vidal is another player who never truly got up to speed when he wasn’t allowed to hit the ground running, and others couldn’t even be tempted to sit out for six months when other options could not be found. Sandro Ramírez opted for Everton despite being close to Atlético and Vitolo needed a loan move to Las Palmas to ensure he kept up his fitness and form.
Costa was willing to sit out for the first half of a World Cup year in order to move back to the club he feels a symbiosis with, and he had a special training plan designed to keep up his fitness. The work with Atlético fitness guru Profe Ortega in tandem with his natural fitness will see him ready to suit up for Atlético from the start of the new year — and don’t expect there to be much rust to blow off, either.
For the mortals in the game, six months out might be fatal, but Costa is no mere mortal. A La Contra reports that at training one day he put his head underwater in a whirlpool to see how long he could last submerged. As the seconds ticked by, his teammates grew worried, but he eventually emerged in authority of the situation.
“He has the gills of an amphibian,” writer Luis Villarejo said.
Spain’s synchronised swimming director, Ana Montero, says one of her swimmers (the best in the business) can hold their breath for two minutes underwater without using energy and one minute 15 seconds in action. Costa can do the same as he was gifted with a natural fitness that has helped him rise as far as he has in world football.
While Zlatan Ibrahimovic suggests he is the king of the jungle given the way he recovered from a cruciate knee ligament injury, Costa returned to training from the same injury after five months. His ability to heal tied with that natural fitness and his low body fat make him a freak of nature.
Costa will be relied on to score goals, as is normal with strikers. But the 29-year-old will also have the job of invigorating the team with his energy, something that also comes naturally to the Spanish striker.
“He didn’t seem great when he came, but now he looks good,” Filipe Luís said, highlighting the energy and vitality that he has given the team in training.
Once January rolls around, expect Costa to turn from a man holding his breath under the surface to a predator in the water.