In the cafeteria at Atlético Madrid's Cerro del Espino training complex, Diego Costa is greeted warmly by veterans Luís Pereira and Roberto Marina. They congratulate the Brazilian forward on earning a new contract with the team, which was pushed through when interest from Liverpool became apparent. "You've been mugged," Costa smiles back. Everyone at the club says that the forward is a "wonderful person, always in a good mood," which is a very different image to Costa's on-field reputation.
Question. This is the first season when you know where you're playing from day one.
Answer. Yes, and it's nice to have that tranquility. I was on vacation in my home town, Lagarto, and I knew I'd done my job last season but the responsibility is also greater now, and I have to be ready.
Q. Did you play some five-a-side in Lagarto?
A. Yes, I've made a pitch at my grandmother's house so I can keep in shape.
Q. Have you looked after yourself?
A. Last season I came back at my ideal weight. But I have eaten beans, rice, meat... I look after myself so as not to be behind anyone else. You notice when you are at the right weight; you train better. You learn that in the end, you're only harming yourself.
Each season I get fewer cards. I've changed"
Q. David Villa has good movement and you too, will you play more as a center forward this season?
A. [Diego] Simeone knows I'm not much use static. I like to move around. There should be a lot of movement between the two of us but what's important is to know how to move. Villa is a world-class striker and he'll make me a better player. I hope we'll form a good partnership but we also have Adrián, and nothing is set in stone.
Q. Has your knee injury stopped you from doing some things?
A. Sometimes you worry about trying something but normally I try not to think about it too much. I try to play my way: I'll stick my leg in and if I get injured what can I do? It's my job.
Q. Sometimes you start trouble on the field and sometimes you're provoked. What do you think when you see yourself spitting on the field?
A. The truth is that it is not a nice image, but it's very easy to talk when you're watching the game on television. On the field you hear everything. No opponent has ever said "Diego, I love you." You're always hearing things and being kicked. Sometimes you control yourself and other times you don't. I know I have to improve but a defender is always going to provoke a forward if he knows you'll react. I never look for it, they look for me.
Q. Is it hard to control yourself?
A. I'm getting more used to it. Each season I get fewer cards. I know what I was like five years ago and what I'm like now. I've changed.
Q. Is there a challenger to Real and Barcelona?
A. We have a game-by-game mentality that the boss has implanted. We got to a final last year and we knew we could achieve something. If there are options at the end of the season we'll fight for it. Everybody said Real would win the cup, but we know how to compete. That is the mentality.
Q. Brazil beat Spain [at the Confederations Cup] with the fans singing the national anthem in the stands.
A. Spain didn't do anything, they were scared — it seemed like Brazil was playing the final game of its life. With a full Maracanã, the anthem and all the protests going on outside to motivate the players... Brazil couldn't lose.