Koeman on Madrid penalty controversy: If someone is better off not talking about referees, it's me!

By Sports Desk May 10, 2021

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman reiterated his stance on VAR but was unwilling to comment on the controversial penalty awarded against Real Madrid through fear of being further punished.

Zinedine Zidane was left furious after Sevilla were given a spot-kick for handball against Eder Militao as Madrid were held 2-2 on Sunday, meaning the LaLiga title is no longer in their own hands.

Los Blancos thought they had earned a penalty for Yassine Bounou's foul on Karim Benzema at 1-1, only for a VAR review to overturn the decision because of Militao's handball at the other end at the start of the move.

Sevilla were instead awarded a penalty and Ivan Rakitic converted from 12 yards, though Madrid did at least rescue a point in the 94th minute through a goal later credited to Eden Hazard in what is the tightest LaLiga title battle in years.

Barcelona have themselves been on the wrong end of some controversial decisions this season, with Koeman questioning why VAR is even used in the Spanish top flight after his side were denied two penalties in their loss to Madrid.

The Dutchman, who has just served a two-game ban for comments made to the fourth official during last month's shock 2-1 home loss to Granada, did not want to get involved in the drama that unfolded at Estadio Alfredo di Stefano.

"If someone is better off not talking about refereeing, it is me," he said at a news conference on Monday previewing his side's trip to Levante. "I have already said what I think, my opinion has not changed. 

"If Madrid think they were harmed, that is their problem. As for VAR, I will not repeat any more."

Barcelona remain two points off leaders Atletico Madrid following Saturday's stalemate between the sides and level on points with Madrid, who are one place better off due to their superior head-to-head record over their Clasico rivals.

Barca have collected just 10 of the last 18 points available in LaLiga, after picking up 45 from the previous 51, which Koeman puts down to fatigue at the end of another gruelling campaign behind closed doors.

"There are a lot of games that take their toll," the Dutchman said. "It is normal for all teams, especially those who have played in Europe and have reached cup finals this season.

"In addition, playing without an audience can also play a part. That's why many teams have dropped points at home. It's not normal for so many games to be played. The team that is physically and mentally stronger will win the title. 

"We will fight until the last moment to win the league. It is not in our hands and we cannot afford to make any mistakes."

Koeman has another year to run on the contract signed when taking over as Barca boss last August, but his future will reportedly come down to whether his side finish top of the LaLiga standings or not.

However, the Dutchman remains confident he will still be in charge at Camp Nou next season regardless of results over Barca's remaining three matches.

"There is nothing to answer on my future," he said. "You don't have to look for stories that are not there. From the first day he arrived, the president has shown me his confidence. If anyone can decide, it's him.

"The future is not for me to be worried about because I've signed two years as a coach. We have agreed to talk after the season, but before then we have two weeks and three more games to go.

"I cannot win a battle with the press or people on the outside. For many periods this season they have valued me. For me, the important people are those who I work with every day and who value what we are doing."

Koeman has not lost any of his two matches against Levante as a manager, with his teams keeping a clean sheet in both previous encounters, including a 1-0 win for Barcelona in this season's reverse fixture.

However, Levante have won two of their last three meetings with Barcelona at the Ciutat de Valencia in LaLiga - one more than they had in their previous 11 home games against them in the competition.

Related items

  • Southgate believes England will be stronger for poor run as World Cup approaches Southgate believes England will be stronger for poor run as World Cup approaches

    Gareth Southgate believes England have grown stronger as a result of their poor form ahead of the World Cup, as he pledged to stand firm on his selections.

    England suffered a humiliating relegation from the top tier of the Nations League last month, finishing their campaign with three points – and no wins – from six games.

    The Three Lions begin their World Cup campaign against Iran on November 21, and their six-match winless run is their longest such sequence going into a major tournament.  

    Southgate was jeered by England supporters in the aftermath of a 1-0 defeat to Italy on September 23 and has been criticised for standing by Manchester United's struggling defender Harry Maguire.

    Speaking at Monday's Legends of Football event in aid of Nordoff Robbins Music, Southgate accepted criticism of his decisions, but maintained he must sometimes resist "popular appeal".

    "I think everybody in the country can see we're trying to accomplish extraordinary things," he said. "To accomplish extraordinary things is incredibly difficult. 

    "This is a job where every decision, every selection is questioned, debated, ridiculed. That's just by my postman, by the way!

    "Column inches are full, airwaves are filled. As a manager, you're not going to get every decision right.

    "But I have to be strong enough to withstand popular appeal for something and do what I really believe gives us the best chance to win. 

    "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself, when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too. That doubting, that noise that surrounds us is because people care. They're passionate. 

    "They just want to win, and I understand that. And if we don't win for six matches, then quite rightly, I have to accept that criticism. 

    "That's what goes with our job. If nobody cared or commented, then it wouldn't be the great and incredible challenge that it is."

    England failed to score an open-play goal in their first five Nations League games, before coming from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 in last week's thrilling draw with Germany, but Southgate believes the team's poor run could benefit them heading to Qatar.

    "Milan was painful. I knew walking over to our fans that it wasn't going to end well. But I wasn't going to take a backward step," Southgate added.

    "I've enjoyed the warmth and the adulation, so you've got to ride with the discomfort as well.

    "Against Germany, I think we showed what we're capable of, good and bad. It showed there is character there. As a team, I think we'll be better for that challenging period we've just been through.

    "You wouldn't choose to go into a World Cup with the run of results we've had, but I actually think we're stronger for that and the players have had to take some ownership. 

    "Those moments, like coming back from to 2-0 down and hearing the roof lift off Wembley, are hard to describe."

    With England reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and finishing as runners-up at Euro 2020, expectations surrounding the Three Lions have undoubtedly risen.

    "In seven weeks' time, I get to lead my country to another World Cup. We have players I'm proud to lead, who give us everything," Southgate said.

    "We want to bring people together, create memories and history. I've said before the last two tournaments: if we can make people proud, we'll have had an amazing time.

    "I know that the bar of what might be deemed success is raised and getting higher for us. But as a team, we have to focus on performance, and the rest will fall into place.

  • Martinez to Bayern links 'no surprise' to Inter striker's camp Martinez to Bayern links 'no surprise' to Inter striker's camp

    Lautaro Martinez's agent Alejandro Camano is not surprised by reports linking the Inter forward with Bayern Munich, insisting the Argentine is one of the world's top 10 players.

    Martinez scored 21 goals in 35 league outings as Inter finished as Serie A runners-up last season, and has begun the new campaign with three strikes in eight top-flight appearances.

    With Bayern struggling in the Bundesliga after opting against signing a direct replacement for Robert Lewandowski in the recent transfer window, the Bavarian giants have been touted as potential suitors for Martinez.

    Camano told TyC Sports such interest does not come as a surprise and revealed the 25-year-old rejected transfer offers in the latest window in order to focus on Inter.

    "I wouldn't be surprised because there are always requests, but Lautaro has very clear ideas," he said about the Bayern reports.

    "Today he thinks about Inter and the World Cup.

    "In the last market there were possibilities to leave for impressive figures, but he has understood that it was better not to change.

    "Lautaro is among the top 10 players in the world, and although I have many calls, he has two priorities by the end of the year: Inter and the national team. 

    "He is mature, with a nice family to accompany him, with an atmosphere of tranquillity, which is always important. He feels loved by Italians and Argentines.

    "He started the year with a beautiful project, with an Inter that was built in a powerful way. The truth is that winning the World Cup would be the icing on the cake for him."

    Alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, Martinez has impressed in a fluid Argentina attack recently, with Lionel Scaloni leading his side to a 35-match unbeaten run.

    Argentina are just two games short of matching Italy's record 37-match unbeaten run in international football, and Camano believes they will be serious contenders at the World Cup.

    "Not only are Argentina a candidate, but those of us who know Lionel Scaloni know that he has the same leadership mentality he had when he played," he added. 

    "Lautaro's hope is the same as the others - they want to make people happy.

    "Winning a World Cup is not easy, but the team is ready to reach this goal."

  • Mane backs Benzema for Ballon d'Or success Mane backs Benzema for Ballon d'Or success

    Sadio Mane has backed Karim Benzema to win this year's Ballon d'Or, stating Real Madrid's talisman "easily deserves" football's greatest individual accolade.

    Benzema had an outstanding 2021-22 season, helping Madrid win LaLiga and the Champions League, with Los Blancos defeating Mane's Liverpool in the final.

    Since the start of last season, Benzema has scored 48 goals and provided 16 assists in all competitions for Madrid. In the same time, only Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski (both 50) have netted more times.

    The France striker also overtook Raul as Madrid's second-highest goalscorer, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Now at Bayern Munich after leaving Liverpool, Mane has also been shortlisted for the Ballon d'Or.

    He played a key role in Senegal winning the Africa Cup of Nations, while also propelling Liverpool to EFL Cup and FA Cup triumphs, though the Reds fell just short in Europe and in the Premier League.

    After scoring one and setting up another in Bayern’s 5-0 rout of Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League on Tuesday, Mane was asked who he believes should scoop the prize.

    "[Benzema's] had a great, great season with Real Madrid, he's won the Champions League... I think he easily deserves it, so I'm happy for him," Mane told reporters.

    "I know I won the Africa Cup of Nations, it was a relief for me and for the whole country, and I'm really happy to have won my first AFCON with my country. But I think it's Karim who deserves it, and I honestly believe that."

    Madrid legend, Jorge Valdano spoke to MARCA radio on the matter. 

    He said: "There is no other name for the Ballon d'Or after an extraordinary season. [Benzema] played football of exceptional quality and he has added goals and leadership.

    "He who is intelligent evolves in all aspects and he is the best example."

    The 2022 Ballon d'Or ceremony will take place on October 17 in Paris. 

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.