José Mourinho has claimed Diego Costa should consider himself “privileged” not to have been dropped to the Chelsea bench already this season after the Spain striker made clear his frustrations as he sat out a goalless draw at Tottenham Hotspur.
Costa had opted out of the pre-match warm-up and, having conducted a series of half-hearted stretches near the corner flag late on, returned to the dugout to inch his way along the line of substitutes and, with his back to the coaching staff, remove and then lob his pink bib over his left shoulder. It landed between Mourinho and his assistant, Steve Holland, to prompt chuckles from Papy Djilobodji and Mikel John Obi at his side.
The forward, who boasts seven club goals since January but has always been selected when fit to play, departed the stadium while Djilobodji, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kenedy were conducting their warm-downs out on the turf.
“Diego is very privileged because he was the last one to be on the bench,” said Mourinho, who had clashed very publicly with Costa on the touchline in Haifa last Tuesday.
“Everyone else has been left out: the captain, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, the vice-captain of England, Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fàbregas, Pedro, Eden Hazard, the player of the season and Oscar. Everyone was on the bench and Diego was privileged because I kept him in the team for all these matches.
“Physically he is fine. No problems. He is working well every day. His mood is positive. He’s always a positive guy in the team. I was not expecting to have a player on the bench jumping and singing because he is not playing, unless you’re a kid who has a chance to go on the bench – Ruben, Kenedy feel being on the bench is one more step in their development.
“But for a top player, they’re not happy. His behaviour was normal. He was ready to play when he went to warm up. When I decided not to play him, he went [back to the bench]. And probably he is having something to eat now while waiting for us on the bus.”
Asked specifically about Costa’s rather lazy toss of the bib in the general direction of the manager, Mourinho added: “If he wants to hurt me, it’s not with a bib. I have a good relationship with him, no problem. If he watched the game with some attention from the bench he will know what is needed from him.
“But I’m really happy with the decision because that was the best Chelsea team of the season. We have the team again, and we look to the future with a better spirit. The message to all my players, not just Diego, is that when we play as a team, and especially when we defend as a team, we are much better. If we play like that, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we don’t lose any of the next 10 matches.”
Mourinho used Hazard as his striker against Spurs, with Radamel Falcao injured and Loïc Rémy granted leave after his wife gave birth on Saturday. The Belgian, who has now failed to score in 22 games for his club, delivered a performance his manager described as “phenomenal” and conjured the team’s only shot on target.
“He did fantastically well, and his appetite to be important and make an impact was there,” added the Portuguese. “That was his best game of the season. But we can all look to December now with enthusiasm. I’m convinced that, by the end of the year, we’ll be in a different position and will have shortened the difference to the top teams.” He expects to have John Terry, Falcao, Ramires and even Thibaut Courtois available for Saturday’s visit of Bournemouth.
Spurs, for their part, could take heart from extending their unbeaten run to 13 league games – their best since 1985 – despite a draining midweek trip to Baku in the Europa League, and even from the deep-lying, counterattacking style adopted by the champions. “It’s a good thing that people are saying that was two points dropped,” said Mauricio Pochettino. “We were playing the champions, and yet people have the feeling Chelsea were a small team, playing deep and on the counterattack, and that Tottenham can win every game we play.
“We’re the youngest team in the Premier League and, with the maturity we showed today, we have to be happy. So it’s a good thing [people are implying] we are a bigger club than Chelsea or that we deserve more from this game. We deserved more than we got so I was disappointed, but I’m proud of the players. For me they’re big heroes. The effort was massive because Chelsea played one of their best games of the season. We’d only got home at 5am on Friday morning so maybe there was a lack of mental freshness. If we had been fresher maybe we would have achieved a better result.”