A few years ago, if one were to pick a pantomime villain for football, it would most naturally be a defender, and more specifically probably a Dutch defender for their physical and abrasive style of play.
The Oranje army was involved in that infamous ‘Battle at Nuremberg’ against Portugal in a game at the 2006 World Cup that saw a record four red cards and 16 yellow cards brandished. Fast forward four years and the Dutch team were yet again involved in one of the dirtiest football finals ever played and saw defensive midfielder Nigel De Jong rise to prominence for Kung-fu kicking Spain’s Xabi Alonso in the chest rather than for his footballing skills.
However, as of today, the role of the pantomime villain has been usurped by a center forward. He wears the number 19 jersey and plays for Chelsea football club, and goes by the name of Diego Costa. After his antics at the Emirates, the Spaniard is surely not winning many popularity contests - outside of Chelsea anyway - and has also been dubbed as a “serial cheat” by former Gunners chairman Peter Hill-Wood.
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Costa arrived in the Premier League with a reputation for being a physical and intimidating presence on the pitch from his time at Atletico Madrid. The 27-year-old has done that reputation no harm and has been a constant nuisance for defenders and match officials with his confrontational style of play.
He has always looked to pick a fight against defenders in an attempt to infuriate them and get them sent off. London rivals Arsenal have been the worst hit by Costa’s theatrics as the forward had a huge say in Gabriel’s red card at Stamford Bridge a few months earlier and more recently in Per Mertesacker’s sending off.
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Apart from his play-acting and theatrics, Costa has also been an annoyance for the league’s defenders with his physical game and tough tackling. The striker was handed a three-game retrospective ban for deliberately stamping Liverpool’s Emre Can last season.
The Spaniard was also suspended for his role in Gabriel's sending off after the Arsenal game at Stamford Bridge.
With such a colourful history, the forward has quickly become football’s pantomime villain. However, all said and done, one cannot argue on Costa’s contribution to his team when he is charged up and playing on the edge.
Diego Costa might not be winning many fans with his behaviour on the pitch, but he can boast a brilliant goals-to-games ratio (one just over every other match) that any striker would envy.