Clement Lenglet’s dismissal for an alleged elbow on Pere Pons in Barcelona’s Liga draw with Girona on Sunday caused all sorts of controversy.
Even Pons was surprised by referee Gil Manzano’s VAR-assisted decision to dismiss Lenglet, with the midfielder admitting afterwards that he thought that he had fouled the French defender.
“I took a blow but when I got up, I apologised to Lenglet and shook his hand because I thought it was my fault,” he confessed.
As bemused Barca boss Ernesto Valverde pointed out afterwards, “It’s the first time that the player who is sent off receives an apology from his rival for fouling him!”
It was a significant call, too, as Barcelona were leading through a Lionel Messi goal at the time but were ultimately indebted to Gerard Pique’s second-half equaliser for allowing them to salvage a 2-2 draw.
However, the dropped points allowed title rivals Real Madrid to draw level with the Blaugrana at the summit of the Liga standings and that development rather predictably reignited the ongoing debate among their respective fans about preferential treatment from referees.
Indeed, it was quickly pointed out that Manzano has now sent off five Barcelona players in the past three years.
However, it would be difficult for the Catalans to claim that they are being victimised by match officials in general.
Since Opta began recording data for red cards in La Liga in 2012, Barca have only had 12 players dismissed. To put that in context, Malaga and Valencia top the table with a whopping 40 reds apiece.
Furthermore, Real have racked up 22 reds over the past six years, suggesting that referees aren’t afraid to give Madrid players their marching orders.
However, while Blancos fans might be tempted to use the fact that their club has had 10 more players sent off than their Catalan counterparts since 2012-13, it is worth pointing out that any allegations of refereeing bias against them would be undermined by the role of Sergio Ramos in distorting the numbers.
The most red-carded player in Liga history has been dismissed seven times since 2012 alone, meaning he accounts for just under one-third of Real’s reds during this timeframe (32 per cent).
In addition, there have been seven Clasico reds in the past six years (five for Real; two for Barca), and Ramos accounts for three of them!
In short, Barca can hardly argue that they are the victims of some sort of refereeing conspiracy in light of how few reds they actually receive, while Real cannot feel hard done by, given the presence of the notoriously temperamental Sergio Ramos in their side.