Monthly Archives: July 2015

Diego Costa – The Art of War

Look below to get a sneak peek at some extracts from our brand new biography of Diego Costa!



“The family moved to São Paulo when I was 14 and my brother started to go out partying at night,” recounts Costa. “I wanted to give up football so that I could earn some money. My dad would give me a couple of notes here and there, but it wasn’t really enough and sometimes I had to stay in because I couldn’t face going out on a date and letting the girl pay.”

Costa took a job with his uncle and the pair of them would drive a truck to the Paraguay border, where they would stock up on goods to sell in the Galería Pagé shopping centre.

Costa explains: “Whenever my uncle met anyone from football, he would mention my name. He’d say, ‘I’ve got this nephew who’s super-talented…’ But I didn’t want to play football if it stopped me earning money, especially since my uncle tended to pay me more than I’d actually earned, and I had no living costs because I stayed with him at the time. I saved up and bought myself a motorbike so that I could visit Lagarto, although my mother did everything she could to get me to sell it.”

Uncle Edson, however, had a stubborn streak and was to play a key role at this stage in Costa’s career. He insisted on taking his nephew for trials and eventually one club expressed an interest. Barcelona Esportivo Capela de Ibiúna was owned by a local businessman whose policy was to invest in young players. The team’s matches were therefore well attended by scouts.

“We had to play in a competition in Minas Gerais. I wasn’t keen because I wanted to work but my uncle insisted that I go and told me that he’d pay me anyway. So I went. Although in the end he didn’t pay me after all!”



“[Costa’s agent] Jorge Mendes tells me that he spotted him in the Taça de São Paulo, a tournament they play in January down there,” says Jesús García Pitarch, the man responsible for later bringing Costa to Atlético in his role as the Madrid club’s director of football. “It is an under-18 tournament and the final is always played in the Pacaembú [Corinthians’ stadium]. It’s a huge event and a big party for the whole city. Scouts and coaches from the big clubs always come to the final, but even in the early stages you see unbelievable players and there are a lot of clubs who do very well out of it. Even though Diego managed to get himself sent off in the first match – remarkable! – he had already caught someone’s eye.”

“I remember that I shouldn’t even have been playing that match because I had already been suspended for four months for slapping an opponent and then giving the referee a bit of lip when he showed me the red card,” recalls Costa. “I’ve no idea if someone had been pulling strings behind the scenes, but I ended up playing anyway.”

After the final whistle, a representative of Mendes approached Costa and talked about the possibility of playing in Europe.

“The minute I came off I talked to Mendes’ representative and they signed me up to go to Sporting de Braga. I didn’t hesitate for a moment because I knew that Jorge was behind the offer and that he was pretty much the best in the world.”

The idea was less well received at home. “When I signed for Braga, my dad and uncle took the contract to São Caetano, who offered the same deal for me to stay. My dad was worried that I would end up like the boys who are offered the chance to play in Europe only to be let down at the last minute. But I had given my word and in the end he started to believe that the Braga offer was genuine.”



The second leg of the League Cup semi-final ended with Chelsea on their way to Wembley and the final, but their star striker on his way to a three-game ban and the first sign that he had not completely subjugated the devil inside. While he had still yet to be red carded, Costa twice appeared to stamp on opponents – Emre Can and Martin Škrtel. He was also involved in a typically Costa-esque confrontation with Steven Gerrard and, before any of it, should have had a penalty when Škrtel brought him down.

After Branislav Ivanovic’s header at the start of extra-time had won it for Chelsea, video footage of his clash with Can was reviewed and a three-game suspension enforced. Shortly after news of that punishment came in, Costa was sitting down with Rob Draper of the Daily Mail. It provided a rare and in-depth analysis by the player of his own style of play, best summed up by Costa himself as “going to the limit”.

“As far as what happened on Tuesday, the main thing is when I get home and I can sleep knowing I’ve not done anything wrong, because I never meant to do that and it was not on purpose,” he said.

“And you can clearly see that on the video. But it is a suspension. I have to accept that, I have to take it. Obviously I feel sad because I’m not going to be able to play or to help the team. But I have to accept and respect it.

“I’m not saying I’m an angel — I’m no angel. You can see that. But every time I play I will play the same way because that’s the way I am. That’s what I need to do in order to support my family. That’s my bread and butter; also that’s what I need to do for this club, for the fans and for all the people involved in this club.

“On the pitch I will always be like that. That’s my character and I will always compete. I’m a different guy off the pitch – as you can see – but on it I will not change.”

Diego Costa

Malachy Tallack on Book of the Week

Hearing your own words, your own thoughts, on the radio is a very strange experience. And to hear them in the voice of an actor, on Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’, is doubly so. Particularly when those thoughts include such personal subjects as my relationship with home, my childhood and the death of my father.

But of course, alongside the strangeness, the nerves and the worry about what listeners and readers will think, there’s a great deal of excitement too.

Writing this book took several years, during which I travelled west around the sixtieth parallel, from my home in Shetland to Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway. A lot of research was required for this project, and a lot of thinking too. I took my time with it, carefully piecing it all together, and deciding what I wanted to say.

Now though the book is out of my hands, on the shelves and on the airwaves, and everything is happening at once. Interviews, talks, readings, and now blogs! As I say, there’s a great deal of excitement, and I’m trying my best to enjoy it.

The journeys I took, around the world at sixty degrees north of the equator, took me to some amazing places. I saw enormous icebergs melting on the shore in southern Greenland; I met a First Nations campaigner in Canada to discuss our relationship with the land; I had a close encounter with a terrifying animal in an Alaskan forest.

Throughout my travels, I was trying to learn more about what it is that connects people to the places where they live. What is it that makes people stay, despite the difficulties – despite the cold, the isolation, the storms? What does it mean to belong to a place?

At the same time, I was asking questions of myself. What is it that connects me to Shetland, the islands where I’ve spent most of my life? What does it mean to be at home there? Sometimes you have to go away in order to learn more about the place to which you return, and so it proved with this book.

Sixty Degrees With Stickerlo-resMalachy Tallack


Sixty Degrees North (Extract 5 – Norway)

To correspond with BBC Radio 4′s ‘Book of the Week’ shows – featuring of course our very own Sixty Degrees North by Malachy Tallack – we will be releasing short extracts from the book each day this week!

Today, in episode five of ‘Book of the Week’, Malachy reaches the last point of land on his journey along the sixtieth parallel – a small island just off the west coast of Norway. In this extract, Malachy sits by the ocean and reflects on his journey, home, and where he now finds himself:

“My destination was the island of Stolmen, a little further south along the coast. It was the last point of land on the sixtieth parallel before it dropped back into the North Sea and then returned to Shetland, and it seemed the most appropriate place to complete my journey before going home.


Sitting there beside the sea, two hundred miles from home, I thought back to the traffic that had ventured west from this coast towards my own shores. To the Vikings who had sailed in the eighth and ninth century, and who had made their way ultimately to Greenland and beyond. To the refugees of the Second World War, who were carried in fishing boats and other vessels, in what became known as the ‘Shetland Bus’. And then to the oil tanker Braer, which left the refinery just north of Bergen in January 1993, carrying 85,000 tonnes of crude oil. She was bound for Quebec in Canada, but made it only as far as Quendale on the south east coast of Shetland, where she hit the rocks and spilled her cargo. It was a few years after my family moved to the islands, and a few miles from the spot where, later, I would find the parallel.

I’d come to Stolmen by following that line around the world. Once there, I had nowhere else to go but home. I’d known all along, of course, that this was a journey with only one possible destination. But faced with that last stretch of water that separated beginning from end, I felt nervous and uncertain. Would the place I was going back to be the same place that I had left? And did I even want it to be? Perhaps I’d expected answers, but I hadn’t found any. I’d been left with only questions. Ahead, the sky was like a welt, blue and purple ringed with pink. A crack in the clouds brought sharp fingers of light down onto the blackening waves, and the cold chafed against my face. I sat for ten minutes more, perhaps fifteen, and then it was time to go. I stood and flung a stone into the water, towards Mousa, as though to reach as far as I could towards home, and then I walked away.”