At times, the Premier League feels like a prestige TV series, with high drama, blistering entertainment, and everything else that goes along with that.
We’ve got some fantastic protagonists, with young English heroes Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford doing the business on opposite sides of Manchester, while the tense back-and-forth between Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp is a battle for the ages.
However, despite all of this, one thing is missing: we don’t have the supervillain we deserve.
There was a time when José Mourinho looked capable of filling that role, sapping the life out of his own team and those around him while deploying the dark arts to lead Manchester United to a second-place finish in 2017-18.
However, as the current campaign drew on, it became clear that the United manager’s arc had played-out.
It was his third managerial stint in England, following two spells in charge of Chelsea, and we were beginning to sense that he was running out of fresh material.
We need a younger, fresher model. Someone who has shown he’s up to the task, but who still has some unfinished business.
We need to bring back Diego Costa.
Costa came with a bit of a reputation when he joined Chelsea from Atlético Madrid in 2014, but we never know whether a player can live up to the talk until we see him in action.
Other supposed sh*thouses have been unable to gauge what’s needed of them in the Premier League, at least to begin with. Tomáš Řepka, for example, got the balance wrong when he was sent off in two of his first three Premier League appearances, while others simply haven’t been aggressive enough after moving to England.
Costa, however, knew exactly what he needed to do to succeed, both to contribute in the opposition box and in coming out on top on the mental side of the game. He’s known just how far to pull a thread in order for it to snap, inevitably bringing pain for anyone with the misfortune of being asked to deal with the Spain striker.
We reached peak Costa early in the 2015-16 season during Chelsea’s victory over Arsenal.
After raising his hands to Laurent Koscielny not once but twice with no punishment, he turned the tables by playing the victim in a tussle with Gabriel Paulista. As with many of these incidents, Costa wasn’t entirely innocent, but he knew exactly how much he could do without facing punishment, and knew the exact point at which to flip the switch and make referee Mike Dean acutely aware of the Brazilian’s retaliation.
Logic dictates that retaliation requires a punishable initial offence, but Costa has found a way to beat the system, converting every game he plays into the most recent incident and nothing more.
On the surface of things, Diego Costa should not have been better at this than the man who succeeded him at Stamford Bridge, Álvaro Morata.
Morata’s clean-cut boyish good looks ought to make sh*thousery simple compared to Costa, a man who looks like he’d happily punch himself square in the face if he thought it would get an opponent sent off.
And therein lies the majesty of the Brazil-born striker.
It’s a challenge for an average player to get away with this sort of thing. Pulling it off when you effectively have the word ‘b*stard’ tattooed onto your forehead is a real achievement.
He kept things up after Mourinho’s departure from Stamford Bridge, putting West Ham United to the sword on the opening weekend of the 2016-17 season.
Costa was already on a booking when he went in late on visiting keeper Adrián with studs showing, but was able to shake it off as clumsiness and remain on the pitch long enough to score a last-gasp winner.
Sometimes it’s just about self-belief, and we don’t doubt other players would have been resigned to that second yellow when they turned around to see the referee approaching. Costa, however, has always been confident in giving off the impression that the game needs him: to send him off would be to rob the paying fans of the villainy they deserve.
The Premier League might not be lacking in entertainment and hard-fought battles, but without Diego Costa involved it feels like there’s still something missing.
Hopefully, one of the 20 clubs in next season’s competition will acknowledge this and do the right thing.
The Premier League is a box-office competition and it needs its A-listers to justify its position. We’ve got the heroes – now it’s time to bring back the best villain we’ve seen in years.