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Player of the Weekend: Diego Costa

And pre-season friendlies are supposed to be boring, apparently.

There is a tendency to feel a little bit sorry for American soccer fans this time of year. Whilst it is great that they are able to see some of Europe’s top sides in action on their shores, often competing in derby matches and tournaments with tangible trophies, it is sometimes hard to recreate the atmosphere and tension of a mid-season game.

This time of year, managers, players and clubs, in general, are warming up and working things out for the season ahead and, as far as trips to the likes of USA, Japan and elsewhere go, they are an opportunity to grow the branding of clubs with a new audience. That said, no-one in New Jersey who watched this weekend’s Madrid derby can have any complaints about the football they saw.

10 goals, a sizeable upset and the most Diego Costa performance imaginable from the Atletico cult hero. Real Madrid are in for a big season, as they try to put right last season’s wrongs and close the gap between they and FC Barcelona in La Liga. So to face their noisy neighbours in what could have been pre-season stroll, was probably not ideal for Los Blancos.

Their rivals played with all of the passion and intensity that would expect of a Diego Simeone side and Costa, who was on fire all night, netted four times in the 7-3 win for Atletico. They led 5-0 at half-time and the striker had a hat-trick by the halfway point, too. He added his fourth and final goal just after the restart and, quite beautifully in a Diego Costa-like way, left the field after the hour mark, sent off for fighting with Dani Carvajal. Both men were sent off after sparking a 22-man brawl. Some ‘friendly’, this.

Some second-half drama eventually ended with Real Madrid restoring some face, but not without being warned about just how much work they still have to do. Over 300 million euros have been spent by Zinedine Zidane’s side on new players this summer, but it was Diego Costa who proved to be the priceless match-winner in an amazing exhibition over the United States.