The best and worst Chelsea moments for Diego Costa, Chelsea’s pantomime villain that terrorised defences.
The mystery of Diego Costa. Chelsea’s Spanish demon divided opinions from day one. His £32 million deal in the summer of 2014 was a part of Jose Mourinho’s spending spree to bring Chelsea immediate and long-term success. It worked to some extent, failed in others.
Costa’s fiery personality and sporadic performances summed up Chelsea’s 3-year spell, 2 title-winning seasons but also the club’s lowest finish in a league season since 1996. Love him or hate him, Costa was fun.
At his best he was unplayable. At his worst he was unwatchable. Diego Costa was an enigma but he was exactly what the Premier League needed a good shake-up.
The man was a lean, not so clean, but very, very mean winning machine. He typified Mourinho and Conte’s approach to football, play ugly, win ugly, but win nonetheless. He wasn’t too bothered about making many friends along the way either.
In just 3 seasons at Stamford Bridge, Costa won Chelsea 2 Premier League titles and a League Cup, including a double in his first season. He also helped the Blue’s to an FA Cup final as well. This is the efficiency of the highest order. He did much more than just score, his mentality to win at all costs saw him run defences ragged and allowed Chelsea to focus on what they did best in this period, collect their silverware and run.
As far as opening games come, the Premier League should have known what they were up against from the very start. Costa’s first Chelsea appearance was action-packed. He helped Chelsea equalise away to Burnley after going behind early and was also booked for diving, though on second viewing it looked a penalty. If that wasn’t enough, he really was just getting started.
Chelsea’s number 19 then went on to bag another against Leicester a week later before scoring 2 more in a thrilling 6-3 encounter at Goodison Park. With 4 in his first 3 games, Costa then cemented his place as a pantomime villain when he got his first league hat-trick against Swansea 7 days after. 7 goals, 4 games. Boom.
Fresh from the fight
Not that ripping off a defender’s shirt is anything to ride home about, Costa’s passion for England, Chelsea, and the game was impossible to avoid. His wild, jubilant, warrior-like celebrations after every goal or his never-dying work rate to hassle opponents, Costa lived for the drug of football.
He can be described as a cat being put in a birdcage, frantic, excited, dangerous, and unpredictable. Even from a neutral point of view, his hostility was engaging to watch.
“Oscar introduces Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic and Matic to Diego Costa. They shake hands, then Costa straightens up and delivers his pitch in heavily-accented halting English. “I go to war. You come with me.’””Richard Parry, The Evening Standard, explains how Chelsea’s team mates were introduced to their new striker.
Gunning for the Gunners
How do you endear yourself forever to all Chelsea fans? Score a goal against Arsenal. It didn’t take Costa long to do this. If he hadn’t already become a cult hero at the Bridge, in just his 10thgame he scored one of the most iconic goals of the 2014/15 season.
Struggling to break down a stubborn Arsenal defence, Costa’s perfectly timed run in behind the defence was found by an exquisite Cesc Fabregas homing missile. One-touch with his chest, Wojciech Szczesny in no man’s land, one second to think, Costa lifts the ball calmly over the keeper and into the net. He runs away in front of the traveling Arsenal fans, around the goal, and goes ballistic for all of the Shed End to see. Inject it.
“8 in a row”
If you ever need a lesson in how to play perfect counter-attacking football then rewatch this masterclass from Antonio Conte in 2016. You can’t have a performance like that though without a master of their trade upfront. Costa was simply outstanding.
The goal of the day will once again live long into the memories of Chelsea fans, another Fabregas torpedo pass found Costa’s chest, this time he holds off Nicolas Otamendi, shifts the ball to his right foot, and lasers it past Claudio Bravo in goal.
It was the goal that sent Chelsea on to win the title that year and it was perfect. Costa made an extremely hard skill look ridiculously easy.
From leading his team to a second title in 3 years to a complete outcast who isn’t welcomed back to the club. Whatever happened between Antonio Conte and Diego Costa it wasn’t friendly. The Italian manager ended Costa’s Chelsea career with a text message while the striker was on holiday in 2017, the 3-year love affair with London wasn’t just over, it had been destroyed.
Whether it was Conte or Costa who was in the wrong here you can’t help feeling that Chelsea thoroughly missed the trick. Costa had scored 20 league goals that season to propel Conte to a historic first season at the club, kicking him out still seems a bit rash to this day.
This one really depends on where you stand on the ethical and moral scale of sportsmanship, gamesmanship, and playing fairly. Any Chelsea fan will tell you they loved Costa’s attitude and his robust nature. His strength wasn’t just shown when trying to win the ball but often by scrapping opposition defenders as well.
Unfortunately, he did overstep the mark, almost every game, and received 26 league yellow cards for the Blues, he was lucky it wasn’t double that. It isn’t these yellows that make this the worst moment though. Costa played on the edge and his aim was to score or to aggravate, but his constant tussling and aggression isn’t the sort of image that people want from the league or the club.
He may have only received 1 red card for Chelsea but his bite on Gareth Barry and subsequent battle with the Englishman after was just proof of how often and how quickly the red mist could descend upon Costa.
Brutally put, this entire campaign was an embarrassment, joke, and a disappointment for Chelsea. They went from runaway champions to finishing 10th and ruined an opportunity to dominate English football. It wasn’t all on Costa of course, but being the talismanic character he is, Costa needed to do more to help.
His poor goalscoring form was a part of the reason Chelsea’s most successful ever manager was sacked before Christmas with the side in the bottom half of the table. The embarrassment comes from the slight upturn in fortunes following Mourinho’s departure which saw Costa end with a respectable 12 goals that season.
Despite the truth never coming out fully, Costa was heavily regarded as one of the players that fully threw Mourinho under the bus and caused havoc at the club, this time it wasn’t for the greater good.
Interest from China
Before Costa’s premature departure in the summer of 2017, there had been rumors of his head being swayed by large money moves to China. As the CSL started its bid to become a powerhouse in world football Costa mysteriously missed a set of Chelsea games in the January transfer window.
The excuse was of an injury but the beginning of a very ugly breakup had started and Costa didn’t try his best to cover and cracks that were appearing between him and the club.
Written by Tom Coley @tomcoley49
Edited by Jai Mcintosh @jjmcintosh5