THE name Diego is written all over the history of the World Cup and this summer a 25-year-old called Diego da Silva Costa has the chance to create one of the most outlandish plot lines in the competition's 84-year history.

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Born in Lagarto, Brazil, in 1988, Diego Costa might have been preparing to pull on the colours of his native country, the latest in a lineage of Brazilian frontmen which includes icons such as Pele, Romario and Ronaldo.

Instead, the Atletico Madrid striker will wear the colours of Spain, to jeers and catcalls from his local constituency, having turned his back on Luiz Felipe Scolari's overtures.

The player's status as pantomime villain is secure, but Brazilians are entitled to ask how things came to this. Although the player never graced domestic football in his home country, this time last year he was in the Brazil national team, appearing in friendlies against Italy and Russia.

That summer, however, at roughly the same time as he was being omitted from the Confederations' Cup squad, he was receiving his Spanish citizenship. An offer from the Spanish football federation soon arrived, and wily Vicente del Bosque handed him a full debut in last month's 1-0 win against Italy.

With more than 30 goals already this season in Atletico's La Liga charge, you would hardly bet against him showing his countrymen what they are missing.

His strength and brawn address a perceived need in the Spanish team, although Alvaro Negredo of Manchester City is hardly the worst option, while Scolari is left with the likes of Fred, Jo and Hulk as a counterpart to Neymar.

"He is turning his back on a dream of millions, to represent the five- time champ-ions in a World Cup in Brazil," said a rather sulky Scolari.

Stewart Fisher