Chelsea boss Antonio Conte: Diego Costa must be careful
LONDON -- Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says he will not try to curb Diego Costa's passion but warned the striker he must "pay attention" on the pitch as his actions are scrutinised more closely than those of other players.
Costa scored an 89th-minute winner to secure Chelsea a 2-1 win over West Ham in Conte's first Premier League game on Monday, but much of the postmatch analysis focused on the 27-year-old's late tackle on goalkeeper Adrian.
In an interview with ESPN Brasil after the match, Costa claimed he is "marked" by referees in England and that his on-field offences are punished more harshly than those of other players.
Conte told a news conference on Friday: "We all know Diego. He's a passionate footballer and sometimes it can seem that he's always on the edge when he plays. But he's a good guy, a good player and he puts his passion into football when he plays.
"I'm happy with his attitude and his behaviour. I hope he continues but we know he must pay attention. Sometimes when many people or players talk about one player, it's very difficult for the player to play in a relaxed way. You always stay at the centre of attention.
"He must play his football, he must pay attention in that situation. But we are happy for his attitude."
Conte's own wild celebrations during and after Chelsea's win over West Ham have prompted suggestions that he has a similar character to Costa, and the 47-year-old accepts the comparison.
"Sure, we are both passionate, this is true," he said. "I risked in my past, sometimes, to be banned.
"I'm a passionate man and I'm the same as when I started as a manager. I live the game with my players. I play with them and I want to feel this. Sometimes when you score an important goal and you win, you can celebrate with passion. I'm not able to keep my emotion. I know it's strange!"
Asked if he could use his own experiences as a player to calm Costa down, Conte replied: "Yes, but I must tell myself to calm down first, and then the players! But I repeat, when you show passion for football it's fantastic. Football is special. It's about passion. If you have this, every day you can work very well."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.