Much has been made of Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso’s farcical sendings off in Tuesday’s 4-0 win for Real Madrid over Ajax. These red cards mean that both will now miss Real’s final group game against Auxerre at the Santiago Bernabeu, a match rendered meaningless as Madrid have already qualified top of Group G, and will have clean disciplinary slates for the knockout stages. Jose Mourinho has tried to deflect attention away from the incidents and concentrate on the performance; “Stories sell, but the important thing is the 4-0 win and the fantastic game we had. Let’s talk about that and not other things”. But with Uefa investigating alleged improper conduct by Alonso, Ramos, Iker Casillas, Jerzy Dudek and Mourinho himself, it isn’t very easy to ignore the incident. The whole debacle seems to raise two major questions; were Real Madrid operating within the rules of the game? And if they were, does this mean the rules should be changed?
Madrid and Mourinho clearly knew what they were doing, but for Uefa to prove this beyond all doubt will be very difficult. Even if they did manage to prove wrongdoing by Real, what would they charge them with? Improper conduct, yes, but the ‘improperness’ of this conduct would surely be viewed merely as exploiting the system and rules clearly set out, in print, by Uefa themselves.
While I believe that Real Madrid should be made an example of, I can’t for the life of me think what for. I’m incensed because they have deliberately got players sent off to benefit themselves, and I think this is where the problem lies; these sendings off benefit only Real Madrid, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos, and punishments of this ilk should never benefit the offenders. So perhaps instead of Real Madrid being made an example of, it should be Uefa.
Real Madrid have been sly, underhanded, devious and were certainly not playing within the reasonable boundaries of ‘good sportsmanship’. But they were, seemingly, playing within the rules laid out by Uefa, and if, after Uefa’s investigation, this turns out to be the case, then something has to change. Either, Uefa stand by their current rules, make a real example of Real Madrid (I’m talking points deductions, 4/5 match bans or disqualification) and send a message to the rest of the footballing world that, even if there is not a particular rule written down about this, if there is this kind of exploitation again, it will be dealt with severely. Or, they let Madrid off, and amend their rules so that this kind of incident will never happen again.
Either way, wherever the axe may fall, something must be done