New Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui has urged striker Diego Costa to ‘put the bad stuff away’ and focus on helping the club salvage their season.
Costa, 34, is available for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup fourth round tie at home to League Two Gillingham after serving a three-match pre-World Cup ban.
He was sent off for headbutting Ben Mee towards the end of a Premier League draw at Brentford on October 29.
It was the most notable moment in Costa Wolves’ short career so far.
The former Spain striker is yet to score in six appearances since effectively coming out of retirement after leaving Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro in January to help a club that had been left without a recognized striker.
Bruno Lage has since been replaced as manager by Lopetegui, who regularly chose Costa during his two years in charge of Spain and selected the former Chelsea striker in their 2018 World Cup squad before it is not famous sacked just before the tournament.
Lopetegui knows the positive impact Costa can have but warned he should focus on his own game rather than quarrel with his opponents.
“Diego knows this is a great opportunity for him,” Lopetegui said. “He was more or less out of the top tier of the game for six months. Now he has a chance to play at elite level again, in the Premier League.
“In training he becomes like a child again, like a young player. He is working very hard to find the best version of himself and we are going to help him do that.
“But he has to push back the bad stuff, which we know – and he knows too -. I want to see his character play football, not do stupid things.”
Jimenez needs to ‘improve’
Despite three substitute appearances for Mexico at the World Cup, the fitness of fellow striker Raul Jimenez remains a cause for concern as the season restarts with Wolves potentially playing seven matches in 26 days.
Lopetegui did not provide much clarity on the extent of the likely involvement of the 31-year-old, whose last club appearance was in August and whose future has been hotly debated .
“Raul is working in the right direction but he still needs to improve to be ready to start with us,” he said. “Hopefully when he’s fit and perfect he can play [every three days].”