Former Spurs captain Ledley King has branded Gabriel as naive for the way he allowed Diego Costa to get under his skin.

The Tottenham legend, famed for his knee injuries which prevented him from going on to join a big club and win things like his predecessor Sol Campbell, has gone as far as explaining the thought process behind Costa’s actions.

It seems pretty clear to most people that Diego Costa didn’t think before he acted, but King gave him the benefit of the doubt.

“It depends what kind of person you are, what kind of player you are,” the former Spurs man said.

“Costa is clever and he probably picked on the right player and he got what he was looking for – Gabriel was naive in that sense.

“As a player you have to figure out a way to get back at him at the best way possible.

“To me that is staying on the pitch and making sure you make it as hard as possible for him to score – that is the way I would have done it.”

King, who was undeniably a superb defender when he could stay fit, says he would have relished the opportunity to play against the Chelsea striker.

Thierry Henry once said King is the best defender he ever faced, so there’s no doubt you can take the former centre-half at face value.

“He is a player who knows what he is doing but I would have loved to have played against him – he is different and it is not something we are used to, it is intriguing and it is up to players to work out how to deal with him and how to cope with him best.

“There weren’t too many times when players wound me up but when it did happen it just gave me that incentive to really shut them down and make sure they didn’t get a sniff.

“Everyone is different and has different ways of trying to deal with players but ultimately you want to win the game and the best way to win it is to stay on the pitch and have a say on the result. That was my motto.”

Unfortunately, King’s narrative took a slight hit on Tuesday afternoon as the FA hit Costa with a ban and rescinded the three-game ban that Gabriel had been handed.

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There seems to be an idea that Diego Costa is clever and sneaky in the way that he winds up opposition players but, in truth, he is just an oaf who doesn’t get caught or reprimanded.

Equally, Gabriel has been labelled as naive but all he really did was try to defend team-mate Laurent Koscielny after the Chelsea striker had twice struck him in the face. Costa didn’t ‘wind up’ Gabriel as much as he stupidly started hitting Gabriel’s defensive partner.

Moreover, Gabriel didn’t ‘naively’ retaliate as the FA have decided his red card was not worth a ban of any kind.

Hopefully the Brazilian plays at White Hart Lane in Wednesday night’s north London derby and King can do nothing but praise his performance after the game.