It was hard not to let out a wry smile this season as Jose Mourinho got into odd beefs with his medical staff, and the well-mannered Diego Costa shockingly veered off into the deep end of on the pitch debauchery. The delight was not due to any particular veneration for the pair but more out of relief: They aren’t La Liga’s problem anymore.
There was a time not too long ago when the wily duo’s shenanigans were a regular staple in Spain. Week in, week out it seemed yet another ridiculous controversy would surround them both. Now they’re the Premier League’s problem.
Costa, having now completed his three-match ban for … let’s call them antics … against Arsenal, was not any less of a terror in Spain. In fact it’s where he honed his particular brand of “aggression.” Mourinho, on the other hand, was already well known for his bullish tone with the media and his self-aggrandizing demeanor from his early Chelsea days, but his time in Spain and the pressure of Real Madrid seemed to exacerbate his rowdy nature, bringing us Jose 2.0 – bigger, badder and more special than ever.
It’s not quite clear exactly when Costa’s machinations began to hit fever pitch, but all signs tend to point Dec. 2012, when a series of run-ins rendered his on-pitch actions far more deliberate than coincidental.
That December, Costa found his holiday cheer in the form of a few physical scuffles. Firstly, a ridiculous saliva-war with Sergio Ramos in the Madrid derby that opened people’s eyes to his tactics.
His first offense:
And, his second offense:
That wasn’t all. Costa was in rare form that day, supplementing his spitting with verbal insults, hoping to get a reaction out of Pepe and Ramos. It didn’t work as well as it did against Arsenal, however, as Real Madrid went on to record a 2-0 victory. But the events were so disgusting that even the cordial handshakes and hugs after the match did little to un-sully what happened on the pitch.
Days later, Costa would strike again, but this time he wouldn’t escape punishment. A headbutt in the Europa League on FC Viktoria Plzeň player David Limbersky earned him a four-game ban, but at this point his goal scoring exploits had already gained the respect of head coach Diego Simeone, who continued to play him in other tournaments.