It is hard to imagine how a club the size of Real Madrid could make the mistake of fielding an ineligible player in a domestic cup game. It is the kind of administrative error that is rarely seen at any professional level, let alone at the biggest club in the world.
But that is exactly what happened when Los Blancos decided to field suspended player Denis Cheryshev in last week’s Copa del Rey game against lowly Cadiz.
Desperate blame game
To make matters worse, the club moved quickly to deny any wrong-doing by shifting the blame to the Spanish football authorities. As a result of their misdeeds, they were eliminated from the competition – although they have since appealed the decision.
The club are hoping to get reinstated on a technicality; however, their blatant denial of responsibility has been interpreted as desperate and arrogant amongst most football observers in Spain and beyond.
In particular, club President Florentino Perez has come under fire and calls for his resignation have been loud amongst the Real Madrid faithful.
Fans getting restless
The fickle Bernabeu fan-base do not need much of a reason to voice their feelings, and this turn of events has amplified the already tense atmosphere following the 0-4 defeat to Barcelona in the recent El Clasico match.
Rafa Benitez has not escaped the backlash either. With his team selections and tactics already being questioned, many have placed responsibility for the bureaucratic mess-up on the coach’s doorstep.
However, revelations that the President may have interfered with his El Clasico team selection, have earned the former Liverpool boss some slack.
As the Copa del Rey match against Cadiz got underway, it seemed that everyone in the world of football apart from the Spanish club itself was aware of the Russian’s banned status. By the time news of the oversight had reached the Spanish media, the player had already scored a goal.
His withdrawal early in the second half, seemed to indicate that the club had caught up with proceedings and were reacting accordingly. Unfortunately, they were shutting the stable door well after the horse had bolted.
Where will the axe fall?
Perez has already had to explain himself over the David de Gea transfer debacle, and recently faced the cameras once again to apologise for the loss to Barcelona and to give his support to Benitez.
The Spanish football Federation do not have a history of backing down in such cases and even if the elimination is reversed, the fans seem to have made their minds up about Perez.
Of course, Benitez could end up as the victim in all this if the President decides to wield his axe as a reaction to the discord amongst fans. But with over $1bn spent and just three league titles to show for his 12 seasons in charge, it is the President that the fans have had enough of.
Written by Neil Morris
Follow Neil on Twitter @nmorris01
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