Zinedine Zidane believes the latest refereeing controversy surrounding Real Madrid has been blown out of proportion because the Liga giants are involved.
Los Blancos’ come-from-behind 3-2 win over Villarreal on Sunday has sparked debate in Spain over alleged preferential treatment that Madrid enjoy with referees, a harsh handball call on Bruno Soriano – which allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to score a penalty to level the game at 2-2 – the latest sticking point.
Villarreal president Fernando Roig blasted match official Jesus Gil Manzano after the match, claiming the referee was handed a gift bag by Madrid, although this is understood to be common practice among many Spanish clubs.
Dissenters in Catalan media, and from Barcelona, were also predictably keen to wade in. Gerard Pique took to Twitter to highlight what he believed was evidence of Luis Enrique’s side not benefitting from similar offences.
Contra los mismos equipos. 8 puntos. 8 y tal. Los recortes son de prensa de Madrid por la duda. pic.twitter.com/nZUDgrjuVd
— Gerard Piqué (@3gerardpique) February 26, 2017
Zidane firmly denied that his team were the beneficiaries of favourable refereeing, but was quick to point out that his side were always respectful of the officials.
When asked if the furore was exaggerated because his side were involved, Zidane told a news conference: “Yes, this is clear.
“I do not get involved with the referees and my players always respect what the referees do.
“I have a special squad in this sense, they want to do things in the right way. This can annoy a lot of people, I can understand.
“But I am very proud of my players because they respect referees and the officiating body. I am always with them.”
Commenting on Pique’s claims, Zidane added: “People can have their opinion, I’m not getting involved.
“A player can speak, a president can speak but no-one’s going to stop them speaking.
“The only thing I’m going to say is it’s not true. We just get on with things on the pitch.
“It’s what we’ve been doing for a long time, not just with me. I’ve been here [as coach] a year, but it’s always been like this for Real Madrid.
“They’ve always been very professional, very respectful of football in general, so that’s not going to change.”