The threat of a hug that seems subtly but undeniably terrifying

In today’s Fiver: Diego Costa, transfer tax and plain weird dragon-boating


If Diego Costa knows one thing, it is how to wind up his enemies. His particular skill, so potent as to essentially be a superpower, is using often gentle physical contact in a way that so enrages the contacted party that it destroys their concentration, sends them into a wild fury and renders them incapable of going about their job in a sensible and productive manner. As he perfected this dark art Costa stamped on ankles, shoved chests, headbutted, spat, kicked and elbowed, honing his skills so well that he has now moved on to long-distance, remote provocation.

Costa’s summer started with a hurtful text message from Antonio Conte. Now he has delivered an InstaChat-based riposte, among the highlights of which was his request that one of his Chelsea team-mates “give Conte a hug”. To The Fiver, the threat of a hug from Costa seems subtly but undeniably terrifying. A story that starts with Costa instructing an intermediary to give you a hug is a story that could end with your body being dumped in the Hudson and your family being delivered a fish wrapped in your favourite pullover.

Having been informed in that fateful text that his services are no longer required, Costa is on an extended summer break, holidaying in his hometown, Lagarto. It does not seem irrelevant that lagarto is Portuguese for lizard. Particularly given that, like a chameleon, Costa appears able to rapidly change colours. On Sunday night he broadcast a video from a party he was attending, which appeared to be taking place inside someone’s garage and at which guests banged bongos, thrashed drum kits and sipped out of plastic cups, and in the middle of it all was a grinning Costa, clad in an old Atlético Madrid kit and instructing people to hug Conte.

Chelsea continue to seek a striker capable of replacing their ostracised throat-grabber. Having been rebuffed with an approach for Romelu Lukaku, scuffed a chance to sign Álvaro Morata, muffed a bid for Andrea Belotti and fluffed an opportunity to grab Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Monday’s breaking gossip is that they have “serious and strong interest” in bringing Sergio Agüero to Stamford Bridge. The Fiver has put quotation marks around the phrase “serious and strong interest” because every report of the rumour that we have seen has also done so, though none of them indicate who we’re all quoting here. Agüero would certainly be an eye-catching addition to the champions’ squad, though given how haplessly they have pursued strikers so far this summer, The Fiver remains of the opinion that they, like so many desperate Premier League clubs before them, will end up signing Patrick Bamford on loan on deadline day.

And what, then, of Costa himself? The player has dropped hints – and Costa’s hints are about as subtle as his elbows – that he fancies a return to Atlético. The Rojiblancos are, we’re told, also keen. As yet Chelsea have not accepted a bid for his services, and Costa’s contract would keep him bound to the club until 2019. It isn’t hard to imagine, however, that at some point in the next few weeks someone at Stamford Bridge will receive an offer they can’t refuse.


“Now I don’t have to lie there sleepless the day before the wages are paid” – Vasteras chairwoman Christina Liffner on the club’s sell-on payout from Victor Lindelof’s move to Manchester United.


Every deal in Europe’s top leagues – and Ligue 1 – as they happen. And rejoice: the totaliser’s gone past £2bn!


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“A transfer tax that ‘only’ kicks in on transfers in excess of £5m? Has Rod Marshall (Friday’s Fiver letters) seen any of the transfers that have happened this year (or the last several, for that matter)? If £5m is the cut-off, movement of anyone higher-profile than the assistant apprentice groundskeeper will trigger that tax. Before the FA goes full Bernie Sanders, might I suggest a different approach? Perhaps an ‘Are you effing kidding me’ tax on all transfers over … I don’t know … say, £52.9m?” – Scott Pratt.

“Re: Friday’s Quote of the Day. The old joke in Bray was that you didn’t pay to get into the Carlisle Grounds, but rather you were made to pony up at the gate if you wanted to leave early. Times must be hard when even the team’s players are heading for the exits mid-season. But as this was the ground that was used by Hollywood as a stand-in for Croke Park on Bloody Sunday (in Michael Collins), it’s a venue well used to the occasional bit of drama” – Justin Kavanagh.

“If I had to guess which league East End Lions and Mighty Blackpool play in, it certainly wouldn’t have been this. A doff of the cap to Anti Drugs Strikers for their name (and no doubt their good work) but shame on Central Parade, which sounds like a bad soap opera from New Zealand” – Noble Francis.

Send your letters to And if you’ve nothing better to do you can also tweet The Fiver. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Scott Pratt.


Paul Robinson has retired. We can’t help thinking ‘Paul Robinson was still playing’ is bigger news.

The air-kick would have been cruel.
The air-kick would have been cruel. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Not good enough for Arsenal, good enough for Juventus. Go figure. Wojciech Szczesny is off to Turin, with a fee of £10m set to change hands.

Not good enough for Manchester City, good enough for West Ham. Go fig … oh, no, actually that seems about right. Joe Hart’s post-match, post-error fronting up will have a strong echo as he’s off to play in the cavernous London Stadium.

It will be harder playing for Manchester United than Everton, shrewdly notes Michael Carrick about his new teammate Romelu Lukaku.

Yessch! Hosts Holland got off to a fine start in the Women’s Euros, beating Norway 1-0 in the opener while Denmark got the better of Belgium by the same scoreline.

And Uefa suits have opened disciplinary proceedings against Queen’s Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths for provoking fans after Friday’s Big Cup qualifying win against Linfield Holy See.


Sign up and receive the best of Big Website’s coverage, every Friday, it says here. Seems to be a curious lack of mentions for The Fiver …


She won two league titles in different countries in the same year, played for Milan and was banned by the Scottish FA. The remarkable story of Rose Reilly, as told by Ginny Clark.

Ever wanted to be Opta-ed? Paul MacInnes was asked along to have his every move tracked, and it turns out he’s as good as Christian Benteke. Or something like that.

A while back he was being kept out of the Monaco team by a bloke on loan from Chelsea. Now they’ve paid nearly £40m for him. Paul Doyle tells you what to expect from Tiemoué Bakayoko.

The man they sold to make room for Bakayoko is now at Watford. All that hard work on Nathaniel Chalobah down the lav, writes Simon Burnton.

“It’s a fight we have to continue working on for ever.” Sweden’s Nilla Fischer talks to Nick Ames about the European Championship and discrimination.

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