Chelsea striker Diego Costa thinks he is being targeted by referees and rival players in the Premier League. The controversial Spain international was booked by referee Anthony Taylor for dissent during the Blues' 2-1 win against West Ham United on Monday (15 August) and has suggested he is not being treated fairly.
Costa, 27, has been widely criticised for his aggressive style of play ever since he made the switch to the Premier League in 2014. However, the Chelsea star appreciates the support he has got from Blues fans. "I can't ask for anything, the crowd here always loved me. It's a support that I always appreciate," he told ESPN Brasil.
Under new Premier League laws, a referee has the authority to book a player if they speak aggressively towards them or complain about decisions. Costa was booked for dissent after just 19 minutes against West Ham – and the Chelsea striker admitted he was unaware of the rule change at the time.
"I am aware of [the new dissent law] now," said Costa, who was booked 11 times and sent off once for Chelsea last season. "The second time I went to talk to him, he showed me [the yellow card]. I even found it a bit weird, but then I understood. I went to apologise at half-time and that's it."
Despite this, Costa maintained he is treated different to other players in the Premier League. "I'll be honest, I am targeted here, by the referees, the people... if I do something, it's totally different than if any other players do it. It needs to be seen, that people targeted me," the Chelsea player explained.
"It's something I have to deal with and I ask God that these things don't disturb me and don't take the sequence of the games from me, which happens sometimes and gives me suspensions."
Costa – who has been persistently linked with a return to his former club Atletico Madrid in recent months – could have easily been sent off during Chelsea's opening game of the campaign after fouling West Ham goalkeeper Adrian. The referee opted against showing him a second yellow card, but Hammers boss Slaven Bilic subsequently suggested he should have been dismissed.
"He had already been booked," the West Ham manager told Sky Sports. "I saw it again in the dressing room and it wasn't reckless and I don't think it was deliberate. It was quite late, the ball was already gone and he could have or should have been booked again, and that would have meant a red card."