Spain manager Vicente del Bosque said he has left Chelsea striker Diego Costa out of the national team squad for the upcoming friendlies against Italy and Romania due to fitness issues. Athletic Club Bilbao's in-form striker Aritz Aduriz has been included instead in a 25-man squad which includes Manchester United duo David De Gea and Juan Mata, Manchester City star David Silva and Costa's teammates Cesc Fabregas, Cesar Azpilicueta and Pedro Rodriguez. Arsenal's Santi Cazorla, meanwhile, is out due to injury.
La Roja face Italy on March 24 in Udine and Romania three days later, in the last two games before Del Bosque has to pick the final squad for the Euro 2016.
Spanish radio station Cadena Cope reported earlier this week that the manager was set to snub Costa for the games as punishment for the Chelsea striker's behaviour during the defeat at Everton. Costa was sent off later in that game after a confrontation with Gareth Barry in what commentators suggested was a biting motion. The FA cleared Costa over the incident after Barry himself denied he was bitten but the Spanish striker may still receive a three-game ban suspension after being charged with improper conduct over his reaction.
Spanish fans urged Del Bosque to punish the Chelsea striker in a poll conducted by Marca. More than 82% of Spanish fans polled wanted the Blues striker snubbed in favour of someone else following his antics at Goodison Park. Del Bosque, however, has now denied those reports, instead claiming that Costa is out of the squad because of healthy issues.
"[He is not in the squad] mainly for health reasons. Against Paris Saint-Germain, Diego was replaced with a muscle injury. Four days after he surprisingly played (in the FA Cup against Everton) because Chelsea had a lot of to play in that game. They forced him to play and ended with little niggles. It looks like (Chelsea) doctors had claimed he is improving but we have decided not to include him in the squad. Those are the main reasons," Del Bosque explained in a press conference.
The Spanish boss, nevertheless, played down Costa's controversial antics at Everton, although he did add that he wants every player to have good behaviour on the pitch.
"The episode the other day [at Everton] was not very serious. We should not punish a player just for the sake of punishment. But we like everyone to have a correct behaviour."
Del Bosque did add, however, that the Chelsea striker remains in his plans for the Euros.
"There are still two months to go for the final squad. No one is ruled out, not Diego Costa. I think he is playing pretty well lately," he said.
Aduriz, despite being already 35 year old, has been called up instead of Costa after a sensational season for Athletic where he has scored 31 goals in 47 appearances, including a crucial one on Thursday night against Valencia to secure his side's qualification for the Europe League quarter-finals.
Del Bosque previously left Costa out of his squad earlier this season after the FA retrospectively punished the striker with violent conduct in the aftermath of an ill-tempered derby against Arsenal, where he shoved his hand in Laurent Koscielny's face. The manager, nevertheless, then claimed that eventhough he was unimpressed with the striker's behaviour the latest ban had no impact on his decision to drop him.