“Many, many times I get kicked, I get elbowed — that’s part of football. It happens on the pitch but I never complain. Football is a contact sport and people have to understand they can’t change it into theatre.” – Diego Costa
Diego Costa has given himself a reputation; since the departure of Luis Suarez from Liverpool in the summer of 2014, Diego Costa has taken centre stage in antagonizing Premier League defenders. Having been likened to Suarez on many occasions Costa said “I think Luis Suarez left this country because of how he was treated and made out to be the bad guy. Do I feel like I have taken his place? That is crystal clear.” Costa has twice been banned by the FA for incidents which the referees seemed to miss during games; however Jose Mourinho has been quick to support his striker on many an occasion. After a controversial game against Arsenal in September where Costa was seen headbutting Laurent Koscienly, Mourinho come out and said “If you want to speak about Diego Costa with me, it is just to say he played how he has to play and that’s why you have full stadiums and you sell to televisions around the world for millions and millions because the game has to be played like that.” Mourinho then went on to compare Costa’s passion to that of rugby players at the World Cup. Unfortunately for Mourinho, likening Costa to “a rugby player” has been used by others around to criticise Costa’s terrorizing style of play.
There is no doubt that Costa can be rough; his stamp on Emre Can in January 2015 demonstrated this explicitly. However there is a school of thought that condones this sort of behaviour. Like Costa said himself, it is part of the game. Football has evolved over the last 10 years; around 2005 I remember seeing Rio Ferdinand clatter Didier Drogba, straight after the challenge the two got up without issue and chased after the loose ball; had the same tackle have happened today everyone would be up in arms and Ferdinand would have walked away with a yellow card at the least.
Diego Costa is very much of the old brand of football; he is willing to become involved in a tussle with a defender. In some ways the Premier League is missing this and Costa is a welcome addition; he adds to the physicality of the Premier League as well as the humour because nobody loves anything more than a mid-match fight between opposition sides.
Diego Costa is a successful manipulator of his opponents; he tempts them into tackles and draws them into violent and rash challenges. Costa, time and time again, has used his aggressive style of play to the best of his ability. For those that say Costa is irrational I would not agree, Diego Costa knows exactly what he is doing every time he squares up to an opposition defender. This was most evident in that same Arsenal game this September; having been involved in a small tussle with Koscienly, Costa was then kicked by Gabirel Paulista leading to his sending off. Costa purposely intimidated both Arsenal defenders; eventually this paid off and he achieved his goal of exploiting the defenders to the point where one of them sacrificed himself because of his anger. If it had not been for that red card; Chelsea may not have come away with a 2-0 victory that day.
The amount of passion Costa shows is something he prides himself upon; however he likes to note that this is all left on the pitch. Having seen interviews with many of the current Chelsea squad they all say one thing; that Diego Costa is the funniest of the whole team. Fabregas once said that Costa always has him “in stitches” for hours; Costa tries to publicise this and once said “When I’m on the pitch, that’s my job. I’ve got a reputation. Off the pitch, I’m just a normal guy.” I think this is an important feature of Diego Costa as a professional football player; many of his critics call him a “nasty person” and I think this is one assumption too far.
Diego Costa constantly shows passion on the pitch and always manages to add to the team effort. Chelsea fans are in love with Costa and the chant of “Diego, Diego..” is constantly heard around Stamford Bridge whenever he is on the pitch. Let us not forget his incredible finishing ability that led to him scoring 23 goals for Chelsea last season, helping them lift the Premier League trophy. The consensus around other football fans is that if he was on their team they would love him; on an opposition team he is a hate figure.
There is no denying that some of Costa’s actions are unacceptable and even Costa himself noted this once, saying “If I do something wrong, I am the first one to accept the criticism, I have no problem with that. For example, my behaviour in the game against Arsenal was not the best, I know that.” Costa has admitted wrongdoing on his part when he threw his bib at Mourinho after he was not allowed to come on as a substiture against Spurs. Costa came out and said “The bib [incident] is in the past. I made a mistake.”
However I think there is a stigma around Diego Costa’s style of play that needs to be lifted. He gives an element of passion and pride to the Premier League; something it has been lacking in recent years. He is not afraid to give it his all and I think this needs to be applauded and not shunned. Whether you love him or you hate him I think some part of you has to admire Diego Costa for his sheer audacity in doing some of the things he does.