Chelsea's Diego Costa Is No Angel, but It's No Excuse to Make Him a Pariah

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Chelsea's Diego Costa Is No Angel, but It's No Excuse to Make Him a Pariah
PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

From the moment he touched down in English football two years ago, Chelsea's Diego Costa has divided opinion.

On the one side are his supporters who celebrate his goalscoring prowess and the bad-boy persona he seems to revel in; on the other, his detractors have seemingly had enough of those perceived antics.

In the aftermath of Chelsea's collapse against Everton in the FA Cup on Saturday, the ill feeling toward Costa has hit fever pitch.

The Chelsea striker was rightly sent off for two bookable offences, but the focus hasn't been on those yellow cards—it's been on his altercation with Everton midfielder Gareth Barry shortly before he received his marching orders.

Barry's reaction at the time—there wasn't even a flinch from the midfielder—suggests what the TV cameras were showing us was only part of the story. Barry himself has since come out on Fanzai and said Costa didn't bite him (h/t the Mirror).

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The immediate reaction to the incident has smacked of a lynching. Baying for blood, it was all about throwing the book at Costa and giving him what he deserved. It's seemingly led to entering the realms of trial by media, which is well-known ground where Costa is concerned.

At a press conference last year, former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said that he suspected Costa's three-match ban after the Capital One Cup semi-final with Liverpool was influenced by pressure from the media. When Costa received a similar punishment after the 2-0 victory over Arsenal in September, it only added to that feeling.

This all has to stop. Costa did himself little favour by getting sent off on Saturday, but guilty as he was in that instance, it's no excuse to be making him the pariah of English football.

Costa has well and truly inherited that tag from Luis Suarez, who tested the patience of the football authorities and the media during his time at Liverpool.

That's being diplomatic, of course, as Suarez's rap sheet was long and extensive; it included more severe crimes than we're seeing from Costa. There was a biting incident of his own when he attempted to take a chunk out of Branislav Ivanovic's arm in April 2013, not to mention those clashes with Patrice Evra when Suarez was found guilty of racism by the FA.

Let's get a sense of perspective here—Costa is no Suarez, and he shouldn't be treated as such.

Switch his nationality to, say, English, and we have to ask ourselves whether we would have been waking up to such sensational headlines on Sunday morning.

That's not a view rooted in partisan allegiances, either, as we in England have previous in this area.

Jermain Defoe escaped punishment in 2006 for biting Javier Mascherano, then a West Ham United player. Defoe's manager, Martin Jol, admitted the Englishman had a "nibble" on Mascherano's arm, but it was all laughed off; it was just one of those things.

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"He was nibbling his arm—there will be no mark," Jol said, per BBC Sport. "Ask Mascherano if he has got a mark. It is part of the game. They kicked him three times from behind in 10 minutes and he wanted to show his frustration in a nice, comical way."

There wasn't anything comical about it—Defoe was wrong for biting an opponent, and the authorities should have punished him accordingly, like they did with Suarez, who was given a 10-game ban for the Ivanovic incident. Defoe eventually escaped with just the booking he picked up in the game, and any media assault stopped there.

Like Defoe back then, Costa was kicked from behind and hassled by the Everton midfielders for much of Saturday evening at Goodison. When Barry fouled him for the umpteenth time late on, a switch flicked and Costa had clearly had enough, reacting to get himself a second booking.

Costa knows he was wrong for that. He did the exact thing Everton hoped he would, and he will have to face the consequences of it.

The Chelsea striker is no angel, but let's stick to criticising him for what he actually does, not what we wish he would do.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes.

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