Mere moments have passed since Sam Vokes headed Burnley into a 3-0 first half lead at Chelsea when there is a knock on the door at Diego Costa’s family home in north-eastern Brazil.
Sportsmail has arrived unannounced and uninvited but, standing on the doorstep of his childhood home, Chelsea outcast Costa puffs out his cheeks and shakes his head.
‘It’s going well for Chelsea, isn’t it?’ he grimaces. ‘The red card changed the game but anyway, you’ve come a long way and I have nothing to hide. Come on in.’
So in we go, to be greeted with smiles and handshakes from Costa’s parents, Jose de Jesus and Josileide, and a small entourage of family friends.
His father, known as Zeinha, is the man who named his son after Diego Maradona while Costa’s elder brother is Jair, after Jairzinho, the Brazilian icon of the 1970 World Cup.
Perching himself on a chair in the garden, Costa smiles ruefully: ‘It’s been a strange summer.’ Strange is one word for it.
After helping Chelsea to the Premier League title by scoring 20 goals in manager Antonio Conte’s first season at the club, Costa finds himself 5,000 miles from Stamford Bridge on the opening weekend of the new campaign.
Costa’s summer began with a text message from Conte, informing him his Chelsea career was over. Costa has not been at Chelsea since the FA Cup final in May and, during a half-hour conversation, the striker delivers a blistering retort.
He accuses Chelsea of treating him ‘like a criminal’ and refuses to rule out legal action. He says he will always keep Conte’s text message on his phone and claims the Chelsea manager ‘lacks charisma’. Costa also accuses Conte of blocking his contract negotiations in January.
Costa says he has been fined several weeks’ wages but is defying demands to return to train with the reserves. The Spain international insists he wants a transfer to Atletico Madrid resolved this month and that, meanwhile, he is ready to see out his Chelsea contract unpaid and train alone near his home in Brazil.
Jose Mourinho, Costa’s former manager at Chelsea, once described Lagarto — the player’s hometown — as so remote that it sits ‘beyond the sunset’. Located 80 miles inland from the coastal city of Aracaju, the capital of the Brazilian state of Sergipe, it is a modest place of refuge.
Lagarto has just over 100,000 inhabitants and is known for its farms growing cassava (a root vegetable) and tobacco but Diego Costa is the biggest show in town.
A life-size graffiti mural of Costa in Chelsea blue gleams on one streetside wall. Over the past month, images have emerged of Costa going for a Jet Ski ride with his dog, attending the circus and partying in an Atletico shirt.
Costa’s family home features plenty of trophies and awards from his playing career
His family have never moved house. ‘Only renovated,’ he grins. ‘You don’t forget where you came from.’
The mantelpiece bears mementoes of life in England and Spain, including his trophy for making the PFA Team of the Year, man-of-the-match awards from games against Everton and Crystal Palace and the Zarra prize as the Spaniard who scored most goals in La Liga in 2014.
As the final moments of Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat by Burnley play out, his father peeks round the door. Zeinha shakes his head. Costa says: ‘They are two players down, to be fair, Dad.’ Another friend pops by: ‘Bring back Diego!’ he laughs. Costa grimaces.
As Chelsea chase the game, Costa’s intensity builds. David Luiz makes it 3-2 with two minutes left. Costa is off the settee and celebrating, dropping his phone.
‘The Premier League is the top. These moments, chasing a game, with seconds to spare. It’s what we live for. You saw Arsenal against Leicester? Madness. Then Liverpool? 3-3, last minute! Rooney has scored for Everton! I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t miss those moments.’
By Adam Crafton for the Daily Mail, UK