Real Madrid are having a solid season in the Spanish La Liga. They've secured a spot in the round of 16 for the UEFA Champions League, closing out the group stage of the tournament with a resounding 8-0 victory against Malmo FF. Cristiano Ronaldo scored 11 goals in the UCL group stage-putting him in a league of his own as the tournament's top scorer. Ronaldo is also once again a top-three finalist for the Ballon d'Or Award-though he'll probably hand the honors off to Lionel Messi.
And yet, despite all of the good things going on at the Bernabeu right now, the clubs Copa del Rey disqualification is the topic of conversation. It's a blunder that will likely go down in Real Madrid history as the defining event of the first half of the 2015 2016 season.
The Copa del Rey Expulsion
On December 2nd, Real Madrid faced Cadiz in the Copa del Rey round of 32. The match should have been a near-effortless win for the Vikings and the football club certainly treated it as such, leaving Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, and several other top players off the pitch. Predictably, when the ref called full time for the match, Real Madrid were the winners, with a score of 3-1.
Halfway through the match, though, Real Madrid realized that they had fielded an ineligible player. The player in question, Denis Cheryshev, picked up three yellow cards in last year's Copa del Rey tournament before the soccer club he was playing for at the time-Villarreal-were eliminated. In the CDR, though, three yellow cards means a one-match suspension, to be served in the game following the third yellow card.
Because of Villarreal's elimination, Real Madrid's December 2nd match was Cheryshev's first chance to play in the Copa del Rey since his third yellow card from last season. As such, he was ineligible to play in the fixture. Not knowing of this suspension, Rafa Benitez put the Russian winger into the starting lineup for the game. Cheryshev went on to score the opening goal.
The Vikings substituted Cheryshev early in the second half-supposedly after realizing their mistake-but the damage was already done. The Spanish FA decided that fielding an ineligible player was an offense worthy of expulsion, and promptly awarded a win to Cadiz and disqualified Real Madrid from the entire Copa del Rey tournament.
The Pursuit for Reinstatement: Noble or Desperate?
In the wake of the expulsion, Real Madrid fans have been calling for the sacking of Benitez and the resignation of club president Florentino Perez. Perez, meanwhile, has gone on record expressing his belief that the disqualification wasn't fair and announcing plans to pursue "every avenue" for Real's reinstatement.
The question, at this point, is whether or not the pursuit for Copa del Rey reinstatement is noble or desperate. Perez says that neither Real Madrid nor Cheryshev was ever notified in writing of the latter's one-game suspension. As such, the Vikings president doesn't think the tournament expulsion should (or can) stand.
Some fans, though, aren't convinced that a club with as much power and resources as Real Madrid could have overlooked something as important as a player suspension. Cheryshev wasn't playing at Real Madrid when he picked up his three yellow cards, but he was a Real Madrid asset on loan to another club. The reasoning in some circles is that Benitez and company should have analyzed their lineup more closely to avoid something such as this-particularly if the plan was to leave stars like Ronaldo and Bale sidelined.
So should Real Madrid keep pushing to have their disqualification overturned on what amounts to a technicality? Or should they take responsibility for the mistake and step gracefully out of the Copa del Rey competition? The latter course of action wouldn't be the worst thing: it would give the Vikings a chance to focus their energies on La Liga and the Champions League-both seen universally as more important than the CDR.
Sure, it would sting for a team often regarded as the best in the world to bow out of the CDR after the round of 32, but it wouldn't be unheard of either. On the contrary, Real Madrid were eliminated from the Cup in the round of 32 twice in a row in the 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons. Right or wrong, perhaps the best thing at this point would be for the Vikings to let it go.
Regardless of what happens from here, you can root for the Vikings with a new Real Madrid shirt 2015/16 from Soccer Box!