Real Madrid edged closer to the Spanish Cup exit door Thursday after third-divison Cadiz appealed their midweek defeat because the capital giants had inadvertently fielded a suspended player.
Cadiz confirmed Thursday that, having been given the green light by Spanish football authorities overnight, they had launched an appeal.
In the first leg of their fourth-round tie on Wednesday Russian international Denis Cheryshev not only started the match but also opened the scoring in Madrid’s 3-1 win.
But he shouldn’t have been on the field as he was due to serve a one-match ban in the cup after picking up three yellow cards whilst on loan at Villarreal last season.
In their statement Cadiz claimed they were sorry things had come to this pass saying “we reaffirm our respect for Real Madrid and to their fans, we will make no comment on the matter but leave it to the authorities to decide how to settle it.”
Spanish rules are clear, Cheryshev should have been banned for the match.
Last season Spanish football saw second division Osasuna booted out of the cup in an almost identical case.
And in 2001, Benitez was in charge of Valencia when they were thrown out of the same competition for fielding four non-EU players when only three were permitted.
As soon as Real realised their error on Wednesday they substituted the player and claim that neither the authorities nor Villarreal had warned them.
“Clearly we didn’t know. Villarreal and the federation hadn’t warned us,” said Madrid boss Rafael Benitez.
“When we knew we substituted him to show good faith.”
Real Madrid director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno also laid the blame at the Spanish Football Federation and Villarreal for not informing Madrid of the ban.
“I also want to say that Cheryshev himself didn’t know of any possible ban,” Butragueno said.
In July, however, the Spanish football federation had given all clubs a list of the players who were under the threat of a sanction for the season.
“It’s a huge error committed by someone at the club,” said Javier Tebas, the president of the Spanish professional league.
“It hurts me that a tournament such as the Copa del Rey could lose a great team which brings a lot of attractiveness. It hurts me but Real Madrid have to shed some light on what happened.”
But Real found some support for their predicament.
“It’s a bureaucratic error, nothing else,” said former Real player Paco Buyo.
“I don’t believe it’s anything of importance.”
The controversy comes during a roller-coaster season for Real.
They comfortably qualified for the Champions League last 16 but are third in La Liga on 27 points, six behind leaders Barcelona and two back from city rivals Atletico in second spot.