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How Mendilibar managed to tame Diego Costa in Valladolid

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Eibar manager Jose Luis Mendilibar was the first coach to deal with the indomitable Diego Costa during his first La Liga years, they meet again today.

If you had ever wondered how the beginnings of a fantastic striker like Diego Costa were in Spanish football, we have a great story for you regarding the first manager who coached him in Spain, Eibar’s boss Jose Luis Mendilibar. This was way before Brazilian Ronaldo took the squad when Real Valladolid was struggling to stay in La Liga, they were managed by Jose Luis Mendilibar who today coaches Eibar. This Saturday in just a few hours, Atletico Madrid will receive Eibar’s visit and Mendilibar will have a little bit of time to reminisce about the past when he scouted Diego Costa and brought him to La Liga. He may have known that he signed a world-class player back then, but we can bet that he never imagined just how far the Brazilian striker would get in his career as a professional. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Mendilibar Costa wouldn’t have succeeded in his career as he has today. The Brazilian really struggled to become a great footballer when Atletico Madrid first signed him in 2007 at 19, he needed more discipline in his preparation and Mendilibar is the figure who gave him that.

Cost himself has confessed in the past that after going on loan to Braga, Celta, and Albacete with no improvement, it was Mendilibar’s roughness the push he needed to become the player he is today. Diego Costa os one of those players with immense talent but a lack of discipline at the start of his career, he always needed someone to be on top of him during training, otherwise he would always get distracted and never finished the session. Who knows, maybe Costa suffers ADD and he doesn’t know it. But Mandilibar saw something truly great when he first set eyes on him, all the tales of Costa being mean-spirited turned out to be a lie for the manager and he knew he had hit the jackpot when he brought him to Pucela to play for Valladolid during that single season. On that year with the club, Mandilibar brought the Brazilian as the third striker in the club and he finished the season with nine goals despite being a bench player. But Costa never stopped behaving unpredictably, as he was booked 8 times and got sent-off once during the season. But Costa had a great learning experience with Mendilibar that year, both figures meet today again at the Wanda Metropolitano and they will surely be happy to cross paths again. Costa is regarded as an ‘Animal’ by Diego Simeone today, in part thanks to Mendilibar’s work with him.

“They had sold me the player as a wolf and he ended up being a sheep after all, he really is a sweet guy. But he is weirder than garlic soup though. We used to have the world’s best at running into an open space after long passes. When he arrived he completely ate the competition. During that season I remember they sacked me from Valladolid in February during the second half of the season, but they would’ve sacked me in October during the first half if it hadn’t been for him. I told him so. He’s always had great strength and character, but today he is in a different class and in a club with the highest quality amongst La Liga’s best. They always assist him in the best way possible and he is perfect for that squad because of the way he plays, because of his strength. Diego has grown a lot, especially on his confidence. He has already started to score mountains of goals. Today’s goals are just as good for him as those nine he scored at Valladolid with me. We used to fight to avoid relegation. He has everything, he is the perfect player for a great club,” said Mendilibar to Todo Mercado Web. 

What do you think about Jose Luis Mendilibar’s work with Diego Costa at the start of his career? Please share your opinion in the comment section down below.