Whether you like him or not, Diego Costa is still a top draw striker.
After a slow start by the entire Chelsea team, not just Costa, they are now making up for lost time. The Brazilian-born Spain international has scored five goals in his last eight outings for Chelsea in all competitions, which has helped the Blues slowly but surely begin to climb the Premier League table.
His prowess in front of goal has always been matched by his fiery temperament and this attitude has flared up in recent games, he almost bullies the opposition. His powerful, no nonsense strength and turn of pace gives him an edge and defenders can often be caught out thus giving away unnecessary free kicks or penalties.
[ffc-gal cat=”chelsea” no=”5″]
But these past few months have also seen a near bullying of the referee.
Once a decision goes against the striker, the fire within consumes his heart and mind and a red mist develops as he shouts at the ref and bears down upon him with those almost psychotic eyes.
Someone needs to tell Costa that “the look” makes no difference to the man in black, even if it sends a cold shiver down the spines of opposing players.
Costa is one of those figures opposing fans taunt and dislike, but the fans of Chelsea must love. He shows feeling, determination and passion and that’s what fans want to see from their players.
Although a Spanish international, Costa was actually born in Brazil. Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazil’s coach at the time, said he had “turned his back on a dream of millions to represent our national team, the five-time champions in a World Cup in Brazil.”
Costa began his career at Barcelona Esportivo Capela in Sao Paulo. From Brazil, he moved to Portugal and to Braga in 2006 on the advice of super-agent Jorge Mendes.
Atletico Madrid came calling after a move to Penafiel on loan. There, in 13 games, he netted five times before Atletico paid just 1.5m Euros for his services. Stardom didn’t happen straight away for Costa, as he was loaned out to Celta Vigo and Albacete, but proving to be unimpressive, he was sold to Real Valladolid as part of the deal that took highly-rated young goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo to the Vicente Calderon.
Valladolid were relegated despite his goals and it then set the wheels in motion for Atletico to activate the buy-back clause in his contract. Serious injury followed and one of Costa’s few weaknesses is that he is prone to injury. Once again Costa found himself loaned out to Rayo Vallecano in 2012, where he found his goalscoring touch, but also discovered another side to him. Uncontrollable anger.
He said: “On the pitch I fought with everyone, I couldn’t control myself. I insulted everyone, I had no respect for the opposition. I thought I had to kill them.”
That side has materialised again this season and although he may not want to kill anyone, the look says otherwise.
Being paired with Radamale Falcao at Atletico, Costa scored 20 goals, while his strike partner notched up 34, but it wasn’t to last as Monaco took Falcao to the South of France. It was then down to Costa to go alone, and so he did with 27 in 35 La Liga games.
Following a disappointing 2014 World Cup, Chelsea stepped in and brought Costa to Stamford Bridge, where in his first season he set the Premier League alight with 20 goals, winning the Premier League title and the League Cup.
This season has been a rollercoaster for Costa and for Chelsea. In a match against Arsenal earlier in the season, Costa was involved in controversy when it appeared that he repeatedly slapped Laurent Koscielny and then confronted Gabriel, who kicked him and was subsequently sent off. His conduct was deemed “disgusting” by visiting manager Arsène Wenger, while teammate Kurt Zouma initially reacted by saying “Diego likes to cheat a lot.”
Zouma later clarified that he meant “Diego is a player who puts pressure on his opponents.” As a consequence, on 21 September, he was charged with violent conduct by The FA and the following day he was given a three-match suspension. After this incident, the Daily Express claimed Costa was “named as [the] Premier League’s dirtiest player.”
Things continued to take a downward turn for Costa, as he was one of several players that Chelsea supporters turned on. On the terraces at Stamford Bridge, it was felt that his and others’ poor form led to the dismissal of popular manager Jose Mourinho in December 2015.
However, since the arrival of Guus Hiddink, the striker hasn’t looked back – despite his red card against Everton last weekend.
Chelsea look more like the team we have come to know. And Chelsea will need him firing on all cylinders now that they are back in Champions League action.
Diego Costa is one of those figures that puts headlines in papers – for one reason or another.