Graeme Souness has launched a scathing criticism of the “gamesmanship” he believes has crept into the British game – and he wants it stamped out.
Reacting during and after Chelsea’s Champions League last-16 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, Souness joined fellow Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher in condemning the actions of Jose Mourinho’s players when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off.
Souness believes diving, play-acting and complaining at referees to get opponents into trouble has been brought to the UK from abroad – and he says it is “not the British way”.
"There have been wonderful South American and Latin players come to this country but they bring with them that tactic,” Souness told Sky Sports.
"I've worked in Latin countries, I've played in one. It was completely foreign to me when I went there in the '80s and witnessed it close up. They thought it was good play if you got someone else in trouble or someone booked.
"That is something we can do without. It is not the British way of doing things and it's creeping into our game, which is, I find, totally unacceptable.
"When I played, if you got a kick or injured then you didn't want to show the guy who did it that it hurt. You stayed on your feet. Today it's the exact opposite of that. Someone brushes you, you want to go down and try and get them in trouble – that's how pathetic it is.
"Diego Costa – as much as I like him – starts off a game with one intention: 'I am going to intimidate the centre-halves, nudge them, elbow them, set about them physically and just get to the border without getting myself in trouble.'
“He hopes they react to that and come after him. He's cute and clever, gets himself up in the air for any challenge coming, they get a yellow card and those centre-halves can't come near him after that.
"This PSG team is just full of technique, a really good footballing team and they had to put up with stuff which I find really, really unappealing.”
Speaking at half-time after Ibrahimovic was sent off amid a swarm of Chelsea players, following a heavy collision with Oscar, Souness said: "The reaction here epitomises what I'm saying.
“To a man, the Chelsea players surrounded the referee. Costa ran 50 yards to get involved. If that’s what our game is coming to we need to sort it out and quickly.
“We had a great game going on there and it makes me angry that gamesmanship is deciding these games. It’s spoiled the game. It’s not about the best team winning it anymore.”