It seems like a lot longer ago, but back in only 2014 Luis Suarez took a bite out of Italian Defender Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. It was his third such indecent in his career, and the bite earned Suarez a lengthy ban that stretched well into the start of the club season.
Suarez’s propensity for an in-match meal, coupled with his absurd handball that knocked Ghana out of the 2010 World Cup and the Uruguayan had earned a spectacular reputation as the Soccer world’s very own version of a Bond villain on the pitch (the sport has plenty of Bond villains off the pitch). The only thing missing was a cat.
Since transferring to Barcelona, Suarez has been in the headlines just for his goal scoring, and that’s good news for him. Diego Costa has, on the other hand, gone from one of the world’s best strikers to a bit of a pest. Whether or not he actually bit Gareth Barry during this weekend’s FA Cup match against Everton doesn’t change the fact that his image his shifted sharply into the same role Suarez occupied before him.
— World Soccer Talk (@worldsoccertalk) March 14, 2016
In the eyes of the media and many fans, Costa has already become Soccer’s biggest villain. Part of that comes because of where he plays, and who he plays for. Playing in England gets a lot more exposure, especially in London, even compared to Barcelona. More importantly, Costa plays for a team that has been seen as arrogant, especially when Jose Mourinho was in charge. Now, none of that is fair to Costa, Chelsea’s popularity or lack thereof among fans of other clubs isn’t his fault. But his sometimes overly aggressive behavior on the pitch makes him a much easier target.
His confrontation with Arsenal’s Gabriel Paulista back in September earned Costa a three-match ban. His fight with Gabriel was hardly his first incident in a Chelsea shirt. Costa isn’t particularly liked in Liverpool either. There is his possible bit on Barry, but also accusations of stopping on the ankles of Liverpool players Emre Can and Martin Škrtel. During his career, there have been plenty of moments that could be seen as less than sporting. Ironically, Costa’s red card against Everton was the first time he had been sent off in England.
Costa’s form this season hasn’t been great and that drives the criticism of him a little further. The general public is a little more forgiving when a star striker is scoring at will, but since Costa has struggled at times this year he’s been called out on his aggressive play with more regularity. Suarez has been making headlines for his incredible goal scoring numbers in Barcelona, and since sports fans are all about what you have done for me lately, his past indiscretions are put into the background for now. Costa has to deal with the fact that he and his team are struggling this season, so when he lashes out at an opponent it’s talked about a lot more than it would have been if, say, he were to have scored a hat-trick in the same match.
Right now, Costa is probably a bigger villain than Suarez. That doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. This week Suarez could take a bite out of Per Mertesacker’s arm when Arsenal visits Barcelona, or he could do something equally malicious. Being the soccer world’s biggest villain probably isn’t something anyone sets out to accomplish, it just sort of happens. But at this moment it’s Costa. That is until someone does something worse, or until he sits down with manager Gus Hiddink to watch an Adam Sandler movie.
Hiddink asked if Diego Costa should be sent on an anger management course. Starts talking about the movie & jokes they'll both watch it #cfc
— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) March 12, 2016