Diego Simeone’s gamble with his leading scorer came back to haunt him early on Saturday, forcing the Atlético Madrid coach to burn a substitution nine minutes into his team’s UEFA Champions League final against rival Real Madrid. After passing pre-match fitness tests, Spanish international striker Diego Costa, scorer of 36 all-competition goals this season, was taken off in favor of Adrían Lopez after apparently aggravating his hamstring problem.
Costa suffered the injury last week in Atlético’s Spanish title-clinching draw at Barcelona. A doubt in the lead up to today’s final, Costa underwent horse placenta treatment midweek in an effort to speed his recovery.
When he was named to Simeone’s starting XI for today’s match in Lisbon, the treatment appeared to have paid off. After eight minutes of action, however, Costa jogged off the pitch and into the Atlético locker room, the subject of the earliest European final substitution in 29 years.
The extent of his injury could impact Costa’s odds of making next month’s World Cup. Spain head coach Vicente de Bosque plans to name his country’s final 23-man roster on Sunday. Costa was expected to factor prominently in Spain’s title defense, but the severity of his hamstring problem will determine whether the Atlético striker represents La Roja in his birth nation of Brazil.
Just past the mid-point of the first half, it’s 0-0 in Lisbon.