MADRID • Spain manager Vicente del Bosque believes Diego Costa has an important role to play for the European football champions, despite the Brazil-born forward's slow start on the international stage and his slump in form for club Chelsea.
After Costa chose La Roja over his native Brazil last year, he was expected to reproduce the form that made him one of the most feared strikers in Europe during his stint at Atletico Madrid and his first season in England.
But the 27-year-old has scored only once in nine outings for his adopted country, the third goal in a 4-0 victory over Luxembourg.
He has had a similarly barren time at Chelsea this season, with three goals in 15 appearances.
When the English Premier League champions slumped to their third straight league defeat at Stoke City on Saturday, former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer noted a lack of movement from Costa.
"I studied Chelsea's performance on Saturday and actually thought they played as well as they have done for some time," Shearer, now a pundit, wrote in his column for The Sun.
"What frustrated me about Costa was the lack of trouble he gave Stoke's back four.
"Costa is constantly coming towards the ball...
"If you have Costa's ability, there is only one place you should be, up front, facing defenders and running on to through balls."
Playing for Spain, he has often appeared lost, toiling up front while the country's hugely gifted midfielders attempt to break down stubborn defences with intricate passing.
But, in an interview with Britain's The Guardian newspaper published on Tuesday, del Bosque said it was Costa's work rate and ability to make himself a handful for defenders that made him a valuable member of the team.
He dismissed the idea that Costa's gritty playing style is unsuited to La Roja.
He hinted that Costa would be one of three strikers, along with Alvaro Morata of Juventus and Valencia's Paco Alcacer, selected for Euro 2016.
Spain will be chasing an unprecedented third consecutive continental title.
"Our midfield is good on the ball, with players whose touch is good, so we need forwards who create space, who move, who commit defenders, occupy them, and Diego does that," del Bosque said of the striker who netted 20 league goals for Chelsea last season.
Costa may get his next chance to impress in Spain's friendly against England in Alicante tomorrow, before they play another friendly against Belgium in Brussels four days later.
Del Bosque has been unimpressed with Costa's disciplinary problems in the Premier League but recalled him to the latest squad after leaving him out for the Euro qualifiers against Luxembourg and Ukraine last month.