DIEGO COSTA only missed out on the work permit he needs to play for Wolves by two points, which has left Bruno Lage hopeful he could yet land the veteran striker on appeal.
SunSport can reveal the 33-year-old former Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Spain striker had to gain 15 points on the Home Office's points-based system to be given their blessing to play in the UK – but Costa fell just short with 13.
The main objection to the Brazilian-born forward's bid to sign for Wolves centred around his lack of recent match-time at club level and recent lack of international appearances for Spain.
Costa only made 19 appearances for his previous club Atletico Mineiro and hasn't played competitively since December, prior to terminating his contract with the Brazilian club in January.
However the fact his initial application was rejected by such a narrow margin has encouraged Wolves to push ahead with an appeal, which should be decided over the next 48 hours.
The Molineux club will focus on the exceptional career Costa enjoyed and his pedigree as an elite athlete, which saw him perform at the highest level for club and country for more than a decade.
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Costa, who turns 34 next month, failed to meet the FA's required threshold and failed to receive their endorsement but Wolves are hopeful they can bridge the gap, by supplying more evidence of the player's unique situation.
They will point out Spain are currently ranked 6th in the world by Fifa and unlikely to recall Costa once he returned to the nation of his birth.
The Stamford Bridge legend is keen to answer Wolves SOS for a striker after new £15million signing Sasa Kalajdzic suffered an ACL injury on his debut against Southampton, which will sideline him for most of the season.
Wolves are still weighing up whether to jet Costa in to the UK tonight, while the decision remains up in the air.
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The veteran hitman was scheduled to have a thorough medical at Wolves' Compton Park training base tomorrow to rigorously test his current fitness.
Although Costa scored 52 goals in 86 starts for Chelsea he would have to undergo a full pre-season workout to bring him up to speed with the demands of the Premier League again.
Raul Jiminez remains Lage's only specialist hitman with on-loan back-up Fabio Silva not scheduled to return from Anderlecht until the start of next season.
Wolves want to offer Costa a contract, initially until the end of this season, but negotiations will only begin once the striker's work permit application has been resolved.
Costa failed to gain an automatic pass route for players, who have represented an elite nation over the past two seasons.
However comfortably met the criteria to have his case heard by the FA's Exemptions Panel, which applies to applicants who scored between 10-14 points on their points based system.
Costa's tally falls well within that threshold but the bar is set high and only granted in exceptional circumstances.
Wolves will argue Costa's track-record proved he is an exceptional talent who has won multiple titles in Spain and the Premier League, as well as the Europa League.
If Costa had remained in Spain he would have sailed through the process – even though the new tough laws were introduced as a result of Brexit.
Spain's La Liga is a Band 1 competition – sharing the highest rating with the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1.
However Brazil's Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A is only rated in Band 3 along with the Russian Premier League, Primera Division of Argentina, Mexico's Liga MX and the Scottish Premiership.
That means Costa's emotional pull to return to play in the land of his birth could yet cost him his chance of a sensational final curtain call in the Premier League with Wolves.
Lage has identified former West Ham, Liverpool and Newcastle striker Andy Carrol – who is also a free agent – as a potential alternative if the appeal for Costa's work permit is unsuccessful.
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