Since his arrival from Atlético Madrid in the summer of 2014, Chelsea striker Diego Costa has become one of the club's favourite sons, not only due to all his goals but also in large part due to his ability to rile up opposing players and fans. And while Costa’s “bad boy” image preceded even his arrival, his ability to provoke yet toe the line has been unmatched. Monday’s yellow card was the 17th of his Premier League career — and still he’s yet to get a red card (though there have been a couple suspensions after the fact).
That last yellow card was for a newly established “no dissent” rule, which referee Anthony Taylor applied rather enthusiastically to Diego while later not applying it to the visitors. It’s understandable how such inconsistent refereeing, not to mention the history of TV, print, and online #CostaCrimes media campaigns, would make Diego feel targeted (and also form the basis of many an exit rumor over the past twelve months).
As it turns out, Costa was unaware of the new rule and understood the punishment after learning about it. But he still feels that he's being targeted by the league.
"I am aware of [the 'no dissent' rule] now. The second time I went to talk to [the referee], he showed me [the yellow card]. I even found it a bit weird, but then I understood. I went to apologise at half-time and that’s it."
"But I’ll be honest, I am targeted here, by the referees, the people... If I do something, it’s totally different than if any other players do. It needs to be seen, that people target me."
"It’s something I have to deal with and I ask God that these things don’t disturb me and don’t take the sequence of the games from me, which happens sometimes and gives me suspensions."
-Diego Costa; source: ESPN Brasil
Costa is right in terms of the English football media, who certainly know he sells headlines. And he’s probably right in terms of refereeing — it will have to be a very blatant foul for him to ever be awarded a penalty kick.
But he’s also a bit disingenuous. He surely knows that he was very lucky to escape a second yellow card for his foul on West Ham goalkeeper Adrian. And while he has collected the aforementioned 17 yellow cards in 55 Premier League games, that’s
actually a slightly “nicer” essentially the same ratio as his record in La Liga (42 yellows in 144). Even if we adjust for what seems to be a card-happier league, these should not be surprising outcomes given his playing style.
Costa plays with fire remarkably well, and he’s yet to get truly burned, but there’s only so much complaining he can do about feeling the heat.
That’s not to say that he should change. He is who he is and his commitment and passion will continue to play very well with fans and head coaches alike — especially with anther firestarter like Antonio Conte. We (and he) just have to be aware of the risks and try to manage them accordingly (perhaps with interviews exactly like these).