Diego Costa is the villain who we need Chelsea to have 4

Diego Costa had a busy night at Stamford Bridge.  In addition to stamping maliciously on Emre Can in the first-half on Martin Skrtel in the second, the Spaniard also found time to help Chelsea through the league cup semi-final against Liverpool and on to Wembley.

Such is the nature of English football nowadays, that it was Costa’s actions, rather than the pulsating 120 minutes in which he took part, that have taken post-match precedence. The Sky Sports pundits were damning of his nasty streak, Brendan Rodgers was similarly scathing, and the internet is having its usual, meme-tastic fun in that laboured, facetious way.

Here’s the thing about Costa, though: he’s exactly what we want him to be.

When he moved to Stamford Bridge in the Summer, it was inevitable that within in a matter of months he would become a villain.  A complete bastard of a forward who was obviously going to be very successful whilst playing for one of the most gifted and envied sides in the country?  How could he have ever been anything else.

Because of the space that Roman Abramovich’s club occupy in the football ether, they are a natural target for resentment.  When Chelsea prosper, rival fans comfort themselves by talking of artificial victories, plastic fans, refereeing conspiracies and rule-breaking players.  The focus with this club has never been on what they’ve achieved, but on what they’ve done wrong on the way to achieving it.

It’s into that perception that Diego Costa neatly fits.  The cost of his transfer and employment is perfectly representative of Chelsea’s decadent era, his unpunished, rule-bending antics chime with the belief that bigger clubs are favoured by officials, and his rough-housing playing style is the personification of the schoolyard bully persona that his club routinely wears.

He is Chelsea and he embodies what we, the bitter, beaten opponents, want to believe about them.  We judge their supporters for applauding and loving someone who operates within the game’s darkest corners and we loathe Costa for not only his skullduggery, but also for being quite as good as he is.

He and his club play almost identical roles in English football.

Think of the alternative: A benevolent Chelsea.  Imagine a team who had been assembled at great cost and with whom nobody could find fault.  A side who not only routinely destroyed teams, but who did so with a gallant smile and undeniable class.

That would be intolerable.

Everyone has that friend: he’s better-looking than you are, he earns more, his wife is prettier, his children are brighter and, worst of all, he’s endlessly humble.  Where’s the fallibility in that person?  Where’s the legitimate reason to dislike him?  Childish and petty though it may be, perfection is always slightly easier to digest when it’s tainted by something.

And, to this contemporary Chelsea side, Diego Costa is that flaw.  If Jose Mourinho was cantering to the Premier League title just on the merit of Eden Hazard’s dancing feet or Cesc Fabregas’ weight of passing, then with what sticks would it be possible to beat him?  Costa - as John Terry has been for many years - is not only a merciful imperfection, but he also affords the opportunity to construct a contrived grievance.  When he stamps on an ankle or flails a sinister elbow, we get to gleefully apply an asterisk to another Chelsea win and we’re able to talk about something other than how good they really are.

He is a demon of a player, of that there is no question, but - perversely - Chelsea would be much harder to stomach without him.

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