Manolo Sanchis has dismissed Barcelona’s complaint that the former Real Madrid full-back condoned Isco’s hack at Neymar during El Clasico – but claimed the Brazil striker was not without blame, stating “certain gestures could be avoided”.
Barca on Monday outlined their concerns to the Spanish government’s Sports Council (CSD) after claiming Sanchis, speaking as a sports pundit on radio network La Cadena COPE, told the Tiempo de Juego programme: “Neymar is going over the line, he isn’t getting [hit] enough.”
Poli Rincon, another former Real Madrid player, was also cited by Barca for comments he made following the incident in the 84th minute of the game on November 21 which saw Brazil captain Neymar on the receiving end of a kick from Isco as Madrid’s frustration at being 4-0 down finally boiled over.
Sanchis responded on Tuesday and insisted he was not trying to justify the actions of Isco – who was shown a straight red by referee David Fernandez – but also implied Neymar was provoking Madrid.
“I’m going to try and explain my opinion. I’m not trying to persuade anyone of anything as I believe in differences of opinion, but I would like my opinion on the matter to be known,” he said in remarks reported by AS.
“In no way do I justify Isco’s kick and I’m pleased he’s apologised, which is a credit to him, not everyone would do that.
“I’m going to start by saying what my footballing opinion is of Neymar. He’s very good, and is perhaps the most in-form player right now. Another thing is his behaviour on the field of play.
“There were other players who played El Clasico, who had outstanding games, like [Andres] Iniesta, and were given an ovation as they left the pitch. That speaks volumes about Real Madrid fans; it’s something that doesn’t happen everywhere.
“During the match I stated on a number of occasions that I wasn’t liking Neymar’s attitude. I can only say good things about the way he played.
“I know what goes on down there, the tension, the pounding heart and how gestures can be interpreted, and that’s exactly why they ask me to comment, and I could see that something like what ended up happening would happen. Does that excuse what happened? No. But for those of us who’ve played, certain gestures could and I think should be avoided.”
Barcelona boss Luis Enrique was asked about the club taking the matter further on Tuesday, telling a media conference: “It’s a decision from the club, I have nothing to do with that.
“But any action that happens on the field of play should not be justified by an act of aggression.”