There are a few individuals in football that have the ability to entertain and do so quite spectacularly on a regular basis. Individuals such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Jurgen Klopp. Two of such gifted individuals are Chelsea pair Jose Mourinho and Diego Costa. It is unlikely there has been a match this season when one or the other didn’t do or say something that was worth talking about and discussing after the game had finished. They are the sparks that lighten up the world of football and give us something to enjoy and cheer about.
Mourinho and Costa have both been involved in a lot of controversy in the past weeks (more than usual). It is not surprising really with things heating up in the league and stakes getting higher as the second half of the season is underway and there is less and less room for error.
Firstly it was Mourinho who stirred things up in his post-match interviews at Southampton claiming there was a clear campaign against Chelsea from referees, pundits, “experts”, other clubs and managers and other players. The Special One was banned for those words by the FA just a week ago. He was clearly furious with the decision of referee Anthony Taylor to book Cesc Fabregas for diving in the penalty area after a challenge from Southampton defender Matt Targett. According to Mourinho it was a clear penalty, a decision that could have arguably won Chelsea the game, a decision that went against his side and not for the first time.
While Mourinho does have a point that Fabregas did not dive and his team should arguably have been given a penalty, is it justifiable for him to be implying there is a campaign going on? Obviously there have been decisions that have gone against his team, like Diego Costa being booked for diving against Burnley when he was clearly tripped by Tom Heaton and should have won a penalty, but there have undeniably also been decisions that have gone in favour of Chelsea, more recently Gary Cahill escaping a second yellow card for a blatant dive against Hull City. But such is the nature of football that decisions sometimes go one way and sometimes the other, but to suggest there is a campaign does seem a little far fetched. It is true that there may be a bit of bias against the Blues, but that is normal because they have been marked as ‘The team to beat’ and everyone loves the underdogs coming up big. Being the intelligent manager he is, Mourinho surely realises that. The question is what lead Mourinho to say those words then?
One of the many things Mourinho is exceptionally good at is playing mind games with the media. His lines mostly give everyone a lot to write and talk about and that puts him in the spotlight rather than his players. We have seen this many times before, but shielding his players is something Mourinho is exceptionally good at as he always comes up with something to grab the attention. With the second half of the season, his team are the favorites to claim the Premier League crown, it is the time when it is determined how successful a season was. With Chelsea still in three competitions, that puts pressure on his players, pressure Mourinho will always seek to release with a controversy of his own.
The passion Mourinho shows at Chelsea is what every fan wants to see from his manager. The Special One is all about winning and his collection of trophies tells us, that so far winning has gone quite well for him. His rare wild celebrations show what the club means to him. He has a special power to motivate his teams and bring the very best out of his players, pushing them to their maximum. He would die for his players and they would die for him. It is the sort of relationship there should be between every manager and his players and Mourinho is so good at establishing it.
Diego Costa has got himself in the spotlight more than usual in the last week. His struggles with the opposition centre backs that more often than not heat up always make the highlights. But last Tuesday against Liverpool in the Capital One Cup semi-final, his conduct catapulted the physical player to the headlines of every newspaper in the country. Twice during the game he stepped on two of the visitors, Emre Can and Martin Skrtel as well as getting into some pushing and shoving with the Reds legend Steven Gerrard. While Costa only got a yellow card for his argy-bargy with the Liverpool skipper, he was charged by the FA for violent conduct and found guilty, meaning he had to sit out Chelsea’s game against Manchester City and in addition he will not be available for the Aston Villa and Everton games. His two incidents with Can and Skrtel caused a huge response on social media, including the hilarious “One more stamp from Costa and you get a free latte”.
On the more serious note, there is a drawn line players cannot step over. Diego Costa did and we do not want to see players in football getting stepped on. However, no independent jury could prove that Costa meant to step on either player. In neither incident did he look at the feet of the players under him, he has his eyes on the ball, but only Costa himself knows whether he mean it or not. In the first incident involving Emre Can, the young German was on the floor and kicked the ball away. Costa set out after it and stepped on Can’s stretched leg. Concerning the second incident, Costa and Skrtel were in a 50-50 challenge and Skrtel won it with a slide tackle, getting to the ball before Costa. Costa opted to jump over the Liverpool defender, rather than get taken down. Both his legs were in the air and so were Skrtel’s, right below Costa’s. The defender’s feet hit the ground first and Costa landed just a moment later, with one foot landing on the Slovak’s foot. In this case the striker had no idea where Skrtel’s leg would land and it would be difficult to aim, there is no sudden change of movement in his jump either, he lands naturally and rather unfortunately on the defenders leg. Neither incident can be described as a “stamp” as there is no ‘pull-back and stamping’ motion of his leg and his movement is natural in both incidents. In the first he runs onto Can’s leg, in the second he lands on Skrtel’s. Neither can be described as violent conduct nor violent. Although Costa’s personality suggests he could be capable of this if he lost his temper, this was not the case.
Same way Liverpool supporters had every right to be upset with Costa stepping on their players, Chelsea supporters would have every right to be upset about someone stepping on one of their players. Afterall, supporters are there to support their team’s players. But we should all agree that stepping on players, even accidental, is not something we want to see in football and it is something that can cause injuries. Since Costa has been punished for those incidents, we should now expect the FA to deal with all similar incidents in a similar manner. They have to be consistent in their decisions if they want incidents like this or diving to go out of football. Eventhough Costa did cross the line on this occasion, he does not deserve to be called a violent or dirty player. If he is one thing, he is a horrible player to come up against. He will do his best to give the opposition a tough time and get under their skin. He also does have a bad temper and his clashes with defenders are often on the border, but as far as they stay there, it is what we all want to see in football. Very few players show more passion and personality than the Spaniard and very few players are more entertaining to watch when they come up against defenders. His temper is something he should work on, but take nothing from his footballing ability. His street style approach keeps defenders busy the whole game, he will fight for every ball, test the opposition every minute and he won’t be messed with.
Eden Hazard was quoted saying: “When you play with this guy (Costa), you have to give everything. You can see in every action and for every ball, he gives his life.” The fierce competitive spirit of the player projects onto the whole team, he is a big piece of the magnificent puzzle Jose Mourinho has assembled this season and he will not change his attitude. And why should he? He is a nightmare for every defense to play against and combined with his hard work, he is a dream player, a player every team would love to own. If you want to see high quality football, rivalry, emotions, passion and fights, you have to love Costa because he gives you all of it. He does to defenders what defenders do to strikers. He will give a tough battle for every inch on the pitch and he will lead his team. The battle between Costa and Kompany back in September was one of the best striker-defender struggles all season and was rough, but kept completely clean and along the rules – and it is something we missed on in the replay game due to Costa’s suspension. People will hate Costa for the very same reason they are likely to love him, he gives his game a cutting edge, he is a player that will give a great show and entertainment and he can be one of the best things that could have happened to the Premier League. There is something wonderful about watching the top-class South American players in the Premier League. The spark they give cannot be cultivated nor can you find it anywhere else. Just think of Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero, Alexis Sanchez and Diego Costa, who is a born Brazilian.
After the semi-final game, Brendan Rodgers was understandably protecting his players Emre Can and Martin Skrtel, condemning Costa for being “reckless and dangerous” and arguing for his sending off. Jose Mourinho on the other hand defended Costa saying his stamps were “absolutely accidental” and that “there is a campaign against Diego Costa, lead by the media”. While both managers had every right to protect their players as every manager should, they surely both saw the other side of the coin of their claims. Rodgers realises that Henderson and Lucas were both very lucky to stay on the pitch and that Skrtel was fortunate not to concede a penalty on Costa (eventhough the striker should arguably not have been on the pitch by then). Mourinho knows, that if any player did what Diego Costa did to any of the Chelsea players, he would be furious and it would only pour oil into his talks about a conspiracy. Seeing as both managers rightfully defend their players, it is not by their claims that we should be influenced by. Every story has two sides. That is the beauty of football, no matter what, there will always be divided opinions, and Costa and Mourinho are both people that are very good at dividing them.
With his low temper and fighting style game, Diego Costa is the easy target that people, other than Chelsea fans, love to hate. He plays on the edge and he will collect bookings, but at the same time he will give his everything for the team. Same way Jose Mourinho will collect more bans and say more controversial things but he will also do everything to win with Chelsea. The pair are two of the worst opponents your team could imagine running up against. They are certainly no saints, but love them or hate them, they remain two of the most entertaining people in world football and we should feel blessed to have them both together in the Premier League, because they never disappoint in giving a world class show.