Costa gamble another blow to credibility of Juventus and Serie A

Despite Fernando Llorente's wonderful debut season in Italy, he was overlooked for the Spain World Cup squad by Vicente del Bosque, losing out on a place to Diego Costa
Juventus may have swept aside all challengers in Serie A last season; they may have surpassed an unprecedented century of points; they may only have lost twice through the entire 38 match campaign; they may have won their third successive Scudetto.

But there appears to be at least two important decision makers in world football who are not impressed by those facts, or more accurately, the individuals who helped make them happen.

When Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella announced his squad for this summer's World Cup in Brazil, there were a few who were surprised, even angry, to see Carlos Tevez omitted from his final 23.

Tevez had been a leading player in Juve’s success, contributing 19 goals in the league. He was however, not a one-man show. For backing him, in terms of goals and assists, was Spanish striker Fernando Llorente, who had completed an impressive debut season in Italy by hitting the net 17 times.

If Sabella could overlook Tevez, surely Llorente’s efforts would be too much for del Bosque to ignore.

How wrong we were.

Like lightning striking twice, the coach who guided Spain to victory in the last World Cup and in Euro 2012 decided to follow Sabella’s lead by overlooking yet another of Turin’s best - a sizable jolt to those who believe the Italian league is one of the best around and have a similarly high opinion of Juventus.

Star names, national heroes and hugely talented individuals have missed past World Cups through injury, oversight and personal reasons, but for two players so key to one club’s enormous domestic success to be canned is almost unprecedented.

What makes Llorente’s plight all the more shocking is that Del Bosque has decided to go with a player who has been struggling with injury for the last few weeks, let alone being 100% match ready.

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, Del Bosque’s preferred option above Llorente and Manchester City’s Alvaro Negredo, has been desperately trying to overcome an ongoing hamstring problem that first surfaced weeks ago. The injury even curtailed his contribution to his club’s La Liga decider against Barcelona two weeks ago and the Champion League final last week.

In Camp Nou, Costa was replaced after just 15 minutes. Then, in the meeting with city rivals Real, the Atletico marksman succumbed to the effects of the injury after just nine minutes of action.

Few gave the Brazil-born striker a hope of playing in Lisbon. After his early departure, many more have doubted his preparation and readiness for the demands of a World Cup finals tournament. But Del Bosque has decided to take the risk.

Given his CV, you have to believe del Bosque knows best. Or rather those who are advising him (from a medical background rather than dealers in potions akin to witch doctoring) do.

But taking Costa across the Atlantic has to be a major risk - possibly even more of a major folly seeing who Del Bosque overlooked and left back home, or on holiday.

Do Spain really need Costa that much? Does del Bosque? Who can say?

What is known is that the former Real Madrid coach is not the first international manager to turn up at football’s biggest show carrying damaged goods.

England took key contributors Kevin Keegan, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney respectively to the 1982, 2002 and 2006 World Cup final tournaments, all when carrying significant injuries and a doctor’s note for their managers expecting them to be healthy.

None were, which backfired badly on the incumbent coach at the time.

In winning in South Africa and a couple of European Championships, Del Bosque will have gambled a couple once or twice along the way - but maybe never to the extent he has with Costa.