LONDON — Jose Mourinho defended his decision to leave Diego Costa on the bench on Sunday for Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur, calling the Spanish international “privileged” for keeping his spot in the Chelsea lineup this long.
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Costa, 27, has scored just four goals in 17 appearances for Chelsea this season and in their midweek win at Maccabi Tel-Aviv he and Mourinho had a clear misunderstanding in the first half which saw words exchanged.
Since then, reports have claimed that Mourinho is trying to bring in a new striker in January and his benching of Costa on Sunday will add further fuel to the fire.
“Diego is very privileged because he was the last one to be on the bench,” Mourinho said. “Everyone else has been: the captain; Ivanovic, Cahill, the vice-captain of England; Fabregas; Pedro; Hazard, player of the season; Oscar; everyone was on the bench. Diego was privileged because I kept him in the team for all these matches. Today we thought the best strategy was this one. We are happy with the decision and the players. If we had won 1-0, our performance would have been considered tremendous. You will still say it was good.”
Chelsea’s boss was pushed further about Diego’s state of mind as he reportedly failed to put his boots on when warming up and then threw his warm-up bib (see the video above) in the direction of Mourinho.
“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,” Mourinho said. “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 that is one more step. But for a top player, they’re not happy. His behavior was normal. He was ready to play when he went to warm up. When I decided not to play him, he went. And probably he is eating while waiting for us in the bus.”
“If he wants to hurt me, it’s not with a bib. I have a good relationship with him, no problem”
Mourinho may not feel like he has a problem right now with Costa because Eden Hazard led the line superbly in a false-nine formation.
With Loic Remy missing due to the birth of his child on Saturday, Mourinho decided to replace Costa with the diminutive Belgian and he dazzled Spurs’ backline with several intelligent runs and had Chelsea’s best two chances as he headed over in the first half and then forced Hugo Lloris into a superb stop in the second half from a controlled volley.
Costa’s benching has been coming, and although he seemed to handle it poorly on the sidelines, it’s clear that he must now shape up or Chelsea will move on without him.
“If Costa watched the game with some attention from the bench he will know what is needed from him,” Mourinho said, ominously.