Just when Premier League centre-backs thought the way was clear, Diego Costa returned to torment the English top flight once again after completing a free transfer to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The 33-year-old former Chelsea striker has returned to England after agreeing a short-term deal with Wolves until the end of the season, without a club since leaving Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro in January .
Brought as cover for the wounded Sasa Kalajdzic, Costa’s timely arrival at Molineux was heralded with the help of a fitting video clip of the veteran striker emerging from the shadows wielding a pack of snarling wolves for lengths of string. Although he didn’t seem too comfortable with it, tell the club website“I was scared to death. Holding onto that chain, I kept thinking, ‘What if this wolf thought about jumping on me?’ and then the three did. … They were wolves, not dogs. It was a cool experience but not a very comfortable one. I have five dogs, but they’re not wolves!”
It’s official. ✍️ pic.twitter.com/FXcgReSlsr
— Wolves (@Wolves) September 12, 2022
Costa scored a thoroughly respectable 52 goals in 89 games in his first spell in the Premier League from 2014 to 2017, but also found infamy due to his habitual practice of the dark arts of football. He returns with a reputation as a fleeting character, relentlessly tenacious and often out of control. Yes, he may be older now, but it’s unlikely to have blunted him at all.
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The Spain international picked up an impressive 31 yellow cards in his three seasons at Chelsea, but let the record show he only received one red card (versus Everton in the quarter-finals of the 2015-16 FA Cup).
Still, there were plenty of nudges, scrapes, scrapes and frowns to go along with all the deliberate provocation and playfulness – but where does Wolves’ new striker rank in the alongside other modern Machiavellian masters of the game?
Ramos has one of the worst disciplinary records in modern football, having been sent off a total of 27 times during his professional career. Although seemingly skilful and composed, the 36-year-old centre-back is ready to plumb the depths of poor sportsmanship if it means gaining a slight advantage over his opponents. Unfortunately for him, there is a line, and Ramos often crosses it quite recklessly.
“If you look back and you’re not with Real Madrid, you think it’s ruthless and brutal. You don’t think, ‘Wow! Good challenge. It was ruthless.
Jürgen Klopp has his say on Sergio Ramos’ challenge to Mo Salah in the Champions League final… pic.twitter.com/YJCWDDgR1I
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) July 28, 2018
Most heinous act: Few could ignore Ramos’ conduct during the 2018 Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool in which the Real captain literally jumped on it Mohammad Salah and ended the Egyptian winger’s evening prematurely (and in tears) with just 30 minutes played in Kyiv.
Still going strong at the age of 39, Pepe earned a reputation during his time at Real Madrid as one of the most aggressive defenders in the world. While hard tackles were routine, the Portugal international also regularly deployed sly stamps, hair pulling, trash talk and other equally nefarious maneuvers in order to gain the upper hand.
Hoy hace 13 años del Real Madrid-Getafe en el que Pepe le fue bastante la pinza y pateó a Casquero en el suelo. Cayeron 10 parties of sancion al portuguese. pic.twitter.com/uIiMRQxEV5
— Manu Heredia (@ManuHeredia21) April 21, 2022
Most heinous act: Pepe’s disciplinary rap sheet spans volumes, but his worst foul came during his Madrid pump-up in 2009, when the centre-back knocked Javier Casquero to the ground, lost his rag, broke and immediately started kicking out of Getafe. the attacker as he lay prone and helpless.
One of the greatest Italian centre-backs of all time, Chiellini is part of a great line of tough and stubborn defenders feared by forwards around the world. Like several of his predecessors, the Juventus legend was also more than happy to switch to a more physical and antagonistic approach if it meant keeping his opponents at bay.
Chiellini received a yellow card for this tackle on Saka 😮
—ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2021
Most heinous act: There have been some incredibly stiff moves and industrial tackles over the years, but arguably Chiellini’s most wanton act of destruction came in the Euro 2020 final. When he was suddenly faced with a one-on-one sprint against the keen England winger Bukayo Saka in the 96th minute, the veteran defender instead opted to drag the youngster to the ground using his shirt collar, nearly relieving him of his head in the process.
Every great team needs a kingpin, and Busquets filled that role for Barca and Spain as they set out to conquer domestic, European and world football for several years throughout the 2010s. as one of the most decorated footballers of the moment, it’s hard to berate or undermine the defensive midfielder’s contribution, providing the courage needed in a silky smooth and perfectly balanced midfield unit alongside Andres Iniesta and Xavier.
It will always be a Sergio Busquets, since 2010 pic.twitter.com/t1nrWITrVt
— Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) March 9, 2021
Most heinous act: The one moment that could sum up Busquets’ unique approach to the dark arts isn’t an appalling foul or bad off-the-ball indiscretion, but a look – a single sneaky glance through the fingers as he was lying on the ground during a Champions League game against Inter Milan in 2010. The Barca midfielder was clutching his face and writhing in pain after being ‘elbowed’ by an Inter player. However, many onlookers immediately suspected that he might be exaggerating his anguish and of course all doubts were duly dispelled when the cameras spotted Busquets momentarily stopping to writhe in order to shrewdly assess the situation through his hands from his vantage point on the floor.
Lo and behold, Busquets’ “Peekaboo” meme was born.
Uruguayans have a name for their famous national fighting spirit with “Garra Charrua” literally translating into English as “the Claw of the Charrua” — the “plow” being the indigenous tribe that called the South American country their home in ancient times. Few players have embodied this unwavering tenacity and courage more than Suarez, who simultaneously functions as one of the most technically gifted footballers than the country has ever produced as well as one of the shamelessly odious.
Five years ago today, Luis Suárez bit Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 World Cup.
He received a four-month football ban. pic.twitter.com/eB3xAG3xYX
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 24, 2019
Most heinous act: There’s no doubt about Suarez’s most diabolical transgression, and coincidentally, it also happens to involve another previously mentioned thug in this gallery. It was 2010. The place was the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. The occasion: the World Cup group match between Uruguay and Italy. The crime? Attempt at cannibalism.
Whereas Toni Kroos and Luka Modric did all things silky smooth, Casemiro became an integral part of Real Madrid’s famous midfield trio by virtue of a simple desire to do all the muddy work during games and free up his teammates to go about their business more elaborate. Now strong for Manchester United, the Brazilian continued in the same vein as flair players such as Bruno Fernandes and Christian Erikson concentrate their efforts on pulling the strings further upstream.
Can’t wait to see Fred and Casemiro team up in a United shirt.pic.twitter.com/x32VI901mb
—David Scott (@arghkid) August 18, 2022
Most heinous act: Casemiro left Madrid with a cavalcade of stinging tackles and tactical fouls in his wake, but surely worst of all has to be the serious close-range assault he made against Fred, kicking the ball to his own teammate while on international duty with Brazil. Will be interesting to see if the same thing happens at Man United now.