Costa making more enemies than friends with dark arts
Like Mourinho, the end is near for Costa whose mastery of the dark arts is his greatest undoing
(Romelu Lukaku 77, 82)
For far too long, Diego Costa has traversed the fine line between genius and insanity.
English football is no stranger to players capable of such mercurial talent and, simultaneously, wicked temperament.
Luis Suarez and Eric Cantona, before him, were synonymous with this particular brood.
For a time, Costa looked set to join that fraternity of flawed geniuses.
But, as Chelsea's last chance to save their season slipped away, in an FA Cup quarter-final 2-0 defeat by Everton yesterday morning (Singapore time), so too did the striker's future.
At Goodison Park, he continued to prove more fractious than he once was fearsome.
Goals often masked Suarez and Cantona's fleeting moments of madness.
Costa cannot even cling to that as justification for his antics any more.
His penchant for becoming a sideshow far more than he finds himself on the score sheet has seen a worrying stigma develop.
Whether or not he attempted to bite Gareth Barry, his latest victim, will remain subject to conjecture and scrutiny.
Both the midfielder and Everton maintained that nothing untoward had happened, but it further underlined how each of his actions carries a potential consequence.
Before Costa controversially thrust his head into Barry's neck, he had already been accused, with a degree of foundation, of spitting at referee Michael Oliver and making obscene gestures to home supporters at half-time in a full-blooded clash ramped up by his inflammatory tendencies.
Even if the Football Association were to allow Costa to escape retrospective disciplinary action for all three of the alleged actions, purely on the grounds of inconclusive evidence than anything else, the preconceptions will continue to haunt Chelsea.
There appears to be no way back for a marksman whose mastery of the dark arts has become his greatest undoing.
Roman Abramovich must wonder whether it was truly worth sacrificing Romelu Lukaku, whose two goals yesterday decided this encounter, to accommodate Costa's arrival in 2014.
Everton's £28 million ($55.2m) gamble continues to pay off handsomely with the Belgium international reaching 25 goals in 36 appearances for this season and, crucially, all without the need of a disclaimer against controversy attached.
With 15 goals from 37 outings, Costa embodies everything that was good, bad and ugly in Chelsea's not-too-distant past.
He remains a player who was crafted in the image of Jose Mourinho's fallen second reign - magnificent on occasions but largely pernicious.
His chequered reputation was well-known long before his £32m switch from Atletico Madrid but The Special One's willingness to indulge and expand his repository of dirty tricks has contributed to his current detriment and impending downfall.
And, just as Mourinho has found himself dethroned from a lofty pedestal, so too will Costa.
At a club who seek to cast off their reputation for winning ugly, he threatens to become surplus to requirement in Stamford Bridge's new era.
Redemption is likely to be spurned across Europe as much as will invariably be sought.
Paris Saint Germain, previously a viable future destination, confirmed what awaits the Spain international in his pursuit of a way out of his current footballing cul-de-sac.
The Ligue 1 champions declared him an "imposter" and a "fraud" on their official Twitter account during last week's Champions League clash.
Even if the strength of terminology was somewhat lost in translation, the message was clear - Costa's notorious reputation will continue to precede him.
Barry: Costa did not bite me
Diego Costa insisted he did not bite Everton's Gareth Barry during a confrontation in the FA Cup tie at Everton yesterday morning, according to a club spokesman.
The Spain international was sent off late in the 2-0 quarter-final defeat at Goodison Park after clashing with Barry, who was also sent off moments later for his second booking after fouling Cesc Fabregas.
Television replays showed Costa appearing to lean into Barry's neck, opening his mouth, before recoiling and embracing the 35-year-old instead.
When contacted by Press Association Sport, the Football Association said it was aware of the incident and would wait for referee Michael Oliver's report before a decision would be made about any possible action.
Chelsea later issued a statement on the club's official Twitter account maintaining the forward had not bitten Barry, but did regret his reaction.
A club spokesman said: "Diego spoke to club officials after the game and expressed regret over his reaction to the challenge from Gareth Barry that led to his red card, but Diego was also very clear that he did not bite him at any point during that altercation."
Barry confirmed later that Costa did not bite him.
"Seen a lot of talk about the incident involving me and Diego Costa in the game last night. For the record, Diego did not bite me," Barry revealed through his Fanzai app.
Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink refused to condemn Costa after the first sending-off of his Blues career. The Dutchman even managed to laugh off the incident, with reference to the Hollywood movie Anger Management.
"There are movies about that," said Hiddink when asked if he would advise his player to seek counselling. "I have seen that film. Maybe we will go and watch it together. I try to be fair in my judgment and I haven't see it (the incident) so far.
"But without wanting to give a judgment, he was chased a bit in the game as well.
"They went after him, they know it. It's within the rules but, as a referee, you must protect the situation a little bit. I'm not saying 'PROTECT' with capitals, but knowing and feeling the atmosphere, the little provocations."
Hiddink again insisted he does not want Costa to alter his combative style.
"I like him," said Hiddink, who praised Costa for wanting to play despite suffering an injury in the midweek Champions League loss to PSG.
"I still like him going towards the edge, but you also have to take into consideration he desperately wanted to play today. It would have been better for him to be rested, but this was not the type of game where you rest players."
Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku insisted he had nothing to prove to his old club after his two late goals earned Everton the victory against his former employers.
The 22-year-old Belgium international had his path to first-team football blocked at Stamford Bridge, moving to Goodison Park on a season-long loan before signing a £28 million ($55.2m) permanent deal in 2014.
Now, with 25 goals for Everton this season, that investment by Roberto Martinez looks a sound one, although the player insisted that he was not motivated by any sense of revenge in facing Chelsea.
"I don't think I have anything to prove," said Lukaku (below).
"Obviously, there is a bit of emotion. I went there as an 18-year-old kid, that's where I learnt my trade to be a professional footballer.
"But I moved on, like they did. I wish them the best for the future but do my best for my team."
- Wire Services.
CLASH: Gareth Barry (top) and Diego Costa (centre) having a running battle all night long.
FACE-OFF: The two players coming together.
CONTROVERSY: Costa appears to place his mouth on Barry's neck in this television screengrab.
A FIRST: Costa getting his first red card for Chelsea from referee Michael Oliver. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP, YOUTUBE
WHAT THEY SAY
"I think all of this is his frustration, because he wants to play elsewhere."
- The Sun's European correspondent Antony Kastrinakis on Diego Costa
"He obviously has a switch that goes on and off. Chelsea will worry because he will have a reputation that precedes him with referees, and opposition players will be out to wind him up."
- Daily Star's chief sports writer Jeremy Cross
"He spends too much time fighting and scrapping, you can't do that every game because you turn the referee against you."
- Former England striker Alan Shearer
They got bite, too
Press Association Sport looks at other incidents where biting has occurred in professional sport.
1 Luis Suarez (Football)
Barcelona striker Suarez has thrice found himself in the middle of biting incidents.
Firstly, while playing for Ajax, he was given a seven-game ban for sinking his teeth into PSV's Otman Bakkal.
He left Holland for Liverpool but got into biting trouble there when he attacked Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic. The Football Association gave him a 10-match ban.
At the 2014 World Cup, Suarez (above) did the same to Italy's Giorgio Chiellini (below), resulting in a worldwide ban of four months.
2 Mike Tyson (Boxing)
The most notorious biting incident in sport was when Tyson tore a chunk off Evander Holyfield's ear during their heavyweight world title fight in 1997. Tyson was disqualified, but later had his boxing licence reinstated.
3 Johan Le Roux (Rugby Union)
Springboks Le Roux bit All Blacks hooker Sean Fitzpatrick during a Test match in 1994. The South African was sent home in disgrace, banned for 17 months and his international career ended.
4 Dylan Hartley (Rugby Union)
England hooker Hartley was suspended for eight weeks for biting Ireland's Stephen Ferris during a Six Nations match in 2012. There was no television evidence, but Hartley was found guilty.
5 Miguel Olivo (Baseball)
Two teammates of the Albuquerque Isotopes - a US minor league team - got into a confrontation during a game in 2014. The incident ended with Olivo biting off a chunk of Alex Guerrero's ear.