Another game for Diego Costa, another game where he "could've been sent off". Just another day in office then for the Chelsea and Spain striker, right?
We're talking about the big showdown between Italy and Spain the other day in World Cup 2018 qualifying, featuring an almighty, hour-long tussle between Costa and Juventus center back Leonardo Bonucci, himself no stranger to off-the-ball mind games. It was in fact Bonucci's play-acting on an accidental (?) hand to the face that got Costa booked in the first place, though the Chelsea man then came close several times to collecting a second yellow. As usual, he didn't; as usual, he upset the locals.
In comments that mirror similar words from Antonio Conte earlier this season, Spain boss Julen Lopetegui defended his striker.
"Players keep developing right until they retire. You can change in a positive way if you make the right decisions. Diego has a certain character. He is a fighter. But sometimes his reactions hurt his reputation. He will be able to iron out these things as he develops. He is aware of it and so are we. These things can cost him. It could be hurtful to him."
"But we must love Diego the way he is and try to understand him. Any small advantage can make the difference in a tight game."
Lopetegui correctly points out that this is more a reputation problem rather than an actual problem — though I'm not sure how much development we could and should really expect from a 28-year-old striker, especially in terms of qualities that make him exactly the striker that he is. As Lopetegui also points out, Diego is who he is. We must love him the way he is. As long as he manages to operate without collecting actual red cards (as opposed to red cards meted out by opposing fans and the media) and continues to score plenty of goals .... what more could we ask for?