Skip to content

Spain: Diego Costa’s double and the $52 million that could decide La Liga

Dec 22, 2013, 8:47 PM EDT

diego_costa AP

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo usually dominate La Liga’s scoring charts, but through 17 rounds of this season’s competition, a Brazilian-cum-Spaniard is setting the pace, scoring goals at a rate that would press a healthy Messi to keep up. But with the Argentine icon sidelined for Barcelona, it’s up to Ronaldo to challenge Atléitco Madrid’s Diego Costa for the Pichichi, a race the 25-year-old striker leads after two goals on Saturday. The brace gave Atleti a 3-2 win over visiting Levante, vaulting Costa to 18 goals on the season.

Costa, on to track to represent Spain in his native Brazil at the 2014 World Cup, gave Atlético their first lead in the 47th minute, beating Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas in the lower-left corner with a volley off Gabi’s restart. Thirty minutes later, converting a penalty conceded by Rubén García, Costa secured Atleti’s 15th win in 17 games, temporarily moving the colchoneros to the top of the Primera Division.

“He had another great game,” Atlético head coach Diego Simeone said after the game. “He continues to show that if the Ballon d’Or deadline had been extended a bit, he would probably have been in the fight for it.”

Barcelona would reclaim their league lead on Sunday, the Blaugrana’s 5-2 win at Getafe keeping Gerardo Martino’s team top on goal difference, but Costa would finish the weekend first on the league’s scoring chart. With Ronaldo only scoring once in Real Madrid’s 3-2 win at Valencia, Costa has a one-goal lead on the Pichichi favorite, Messi’s hamstring injury having opened the gate for a new champion.

If the tabloids are to be believed, however, Costa’s quest for the crown could end at some point next month. As all players in Spain do, the 25-year-old has a release clause, but because the two-time Brazilian international’s rise has been particularly steep, his clause doesn’t reflect his current value.

Whereas most release values are prohibitively high, Costa’s is just over $52 million. While that price prevents most from dreaming of swiping Costa, it may not prevent a team like Chelsea or Arsenal from unlocking that door in January. If Costa wants to pursue a huge payday, Atlético may not be able to stop him.

As Manchester United found out this summer, activating a release clause from beyond Spain’s borders can be tricky, but with Costa’s value having peaked while teams like Chelsea need a number nine, that $52 million could loom particularly large in two Spanish races. Not only could Costa’s quest for the Pichichi end if his release clause is triggered, but Atlético’s challenge of Barcelona could fade if its star elects to cash in on his newfound success.

source: Getty Images

Pedro Rodríguez’s eighth, ninth, and 10th goals of the season vault him to Barcelona’s team lead, with the defending Spanish champions winning 5-2 on Sunday. (Photo: Getty Images)

Barcelona, Real Madrid complete perfect weekend for top three

One day after Atlético had taken first place, Barcelona and Real Madrid did their parts to maintain pace, Spain’s traditional big two pushing the league’s title-contending trio forward with wins at Getafe and Valencia.

Barcelona dug a hole for themselves by conceding twice within 15 minutes in Madrid but fired back through Pedro Rodríguez by halftime. The Spanish international scored three times in 10 minutes to give Barcelona a lead going into the break, one Cesc Fábregas would build on with a second half brace. Matching Atlético’s 15-1-1 mark, Barcelona reclaimed first place, their +37 goal difference besting Atleti by two.

[MORE: Pedro hat-trick in nine minutes gives Barcleona comeback win]

In Sunday’s final match, Valencia pulled back two Real Madrid leads, Pablo Piatti answering Ángel Di María in the first half before Jeremy Mathieu rebuked Ronaldo in the second. Had Jesé given Los Che more than eight minutes to respond, El Real may have conceded again, but after a 3-2 win at the Mestalla, Carlo Ancelotti’s team stays within five of the top.

source: Getty Images

Christian Stuani scored twice as Espanyol went up four on Valladolid. (Photo: Getty Images)

Elsewhere

  • Elche 1-0 Malaga – Ignacio Camacho’s first goal since Jan. 16 had the visitors up after six minutes, a lead which became much easier to defend when Damián Suárez earned a second yellow in the 60th. The teams combined for four shots on goal.
  • Villarreal 1-2 Sevilla – One point in their last three means the honeymoon’s over for the Yellow Submarine, who fall to sixth after their loss on Saturday. Sevilla got goals from Cala and Carlos Bacca before being reduced to 10 after Cala’s 86th minute red card. Jérémy Perbet converted the ensuing penalty, but Villarreal still fell to their second straight loss.
  • Real Betis 0-1 Almeria – A winnable game for Betis turned into the cellar dwellers’ 11th loss of the season when they were unable to pullback Ramón Azeez’s fourth minute goal.
  • Espanyol 4-2 Valladolid – For the second time this season, Espanyol explodes for four, with goals on either side of halftime from Christian Stuani complemented by Sergio García’s fifth minute penalty conversion and Victor Sánchez’s second half tally. Once up 4-0, Espanyol conceded to Javi Guerra and Victor Pérez in the final 15 minutes.
  • Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Rayo Vallecano – Athletic have a four-point cushion ahead of fifth place Real Sociedad after Mikel Rico’s 66th minute goal broke a 1-1 tie, sending Ernesto Valverde’s team to their third win in four.
  • Celta Vigo 1-1 Osasuna – Coming off a disappointing 3-0 Monday loss at Valladolid, Luis Enrique’s team never found net, Lolo’s 34th minute own goal pulling back Emiliano’s Armenteros’s 17th minute opener for Osasuna.

Standings
(all teams have played 17 matches)

1. Barcelona, 46 pts.
2. Atlético Madrid, 46 pts.
3. Real Madrid, 41 pts.
4. Athletic Bilbao 33 pts.
5. Real Sociedad, 29 pts.
6. Villarreal, 28 pts.
7. Sevilla, 26 pts.
8. Getafe, 23 pts.
9. Espanyol, 22 pts.
10. Valencia, 20 pts.
11. Granada, 20 pts.
12. Levante, 20 pts.
13. Malaga, 20 pts.
14. Elche, 17 pts.
15. Celta Vigo, 16 pts.
16. Almeria, 16 pts.
17. Osasuna, 15 pts.
18. Valladolid, 15 pts.
19. Rayo Vallecano, 13 pts.
20. Real Betis, 10 pts.

Latest Posts
  1. Euro qualifying at its midpoint: Predicting the 19 automatic qualifiers

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT

    David Alaba AP

    The top two teams in each group will advance, while the best third-place side will also advance.

  2. On Jurgen Klinsmann and Michael Bradley and “playing out of position”

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:26 PM EDT

    Switzerland v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    As bizarre as this is to read, Michael Bradley didn’t register a single helper for the States until 2011. In the Klinsmann era, he has 12.

  3. Altidore apologizes for red card woes: “Not the type of role model I want to be”

    Mar 31, 2015, 8:07 PM EDT

    FBL-SUI-USA-FRIENDLY Getty Images

    It was out of character for Altidore, who hadn’t received a red card for club or country since he was with AZ Alkmaar in 2012.

  4. Real Madrid lands $34 million Brazilian defender Danilo from Porto

    Mar 31, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT

    9c2fc3c2d0036f128d8501497dffd0ce Getty Images

    With the deal Porto have turned another big profit. See this incredible list below, as the Portuguese club giants have made close to $423 million.

  5. International roundup: No. 1 MLS pick posts first senior goal, Cape Verde upsets Portugal

    Mar 31, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Cyle Larin Canada

    It was a busy couple days for friendlies outside of the draw between Switzerland and the USMNT, with some MLSers doing work in the mix.

  6. Spurs reach deal to buy disputed land for 56,000 seat stadium

    Mar 31, 2015, 5:27 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Tottenham Hotspur could have new, improved digs as soon as the 2018-19 season, according to the BBC.

  7. Andros Townsend nets late equalizer as England draws Italy in Turin (video)

    Mar 31, 2015, 4:38 PM EDT

    FBL-EURO-2016-ITA-ENG-FRIENDLY Getty Images

    Though Wayne Rooney had a series of good chances including a struck crossbar, it was the Tottenham man who beat Gianluigi Buffon to tie things up.

  8. Mats Hummels: Leaving Dortmund “would only be to Manchester United”

    Mar 31, 2015, 3:47 PM EDT

    FBL-EURO-2016-GEORGIA-GERMANY Getty Images

    What would the price tag be for the German star if he skipped Dortmund for Old Trafford?

  9. Three things we learned from the USMNT’s late 1-1 draw in Switzerland

    Mar 31, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    FBL-SUI-USA-FRIENDLY Getty Images

    Here are three points and a bonus reminder from the Yanks’ final match until April 15 in Texas against Mexico.

  10. Player ratings: Stars and flops for the USMNT in 1-1 draw at Switzerland

    Mar 31, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT

    Switzerland v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    Jurgen Klinsmann’s States again allowed a second-half goal, though this one feels much different than the previous friendly failures.

  11. Lineups out for USMNT vs. Switzerland: Williams, Morales, Shea come in; diamond in midfield

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:16 AM EDT

    Danny Williams 2

    Klinsmann makes changes to team who lost to Denmark, switches up formation.

  12. Three things to look out for as USA take on Switzerland

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:02 AM EDT

    Denmark Soccer USA

    Plenty of intriguing questions surrounding the USMNT picture ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Swiss.

  13. European clubs to share record $2.4 billion pot dished out by UEFA in new deal

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    French UEFA president Michel Platini spe Getty Images

    Top European teams will get extra revenue from Champions League, Europa League from next season.

  14. USMNT vs Switzerland preview: Last time they met, Michael Bradley scored the winner with a full head of hair

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:07 PM EDT

    Switzerland v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    Maurice Edu and Danny Szetela helped the goal get going, and Bradley was barely more than 20 years old.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment