It has been far from a harmonious season at Real Madrid so far, with a crushing defeat to rivals Barcelona as well as constant rumors of star players falling out with new manager Rafael Benitez. But events made a farcical turn on Wednesday, when the Spanish giants played forward Denis Cheryshev in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last 32 matchup with Cadiz, despite the Russia international having incurred a one-match suspension from the competition while on-loan at Villarreal last season.
The rules state that it Cadiz file a complaint with the Spanish Football Association then Real Madrid will be thrown out of the Copa del Rey. Cadiz, from Spain’s third tier, have already announced on Twitter that they will hold a board meeting after Wednesday’s game.
Not only did Cheryshev start the match, but he also gave Real Madrid the lead after just three minutes. Soon after reports began to go around social media that Cheryshev had been booked three times in the Copa del Rey last season, and thus would have to be punished by sitting out the first match in this season’s competition.
It provided the surreal spectacle of the match being played on while Cadiz fans taunted their opponents in the knowledge that the match would in all likelihood be rendered inconsequential. Real Madrid had clearly been made aware of the situation at halftime, given that Cheryshev was substituted just seconds into the second half.
That, though, will surely not save Real Madrid from being ejected from a competition they have won 19 times. Bizarrely, it will not be the first time such an event has befallen Benitez in his managerial career. While in charge of Valencia in 2001, his side was also expelled from the Copa del Rey, this time for fielding more than the maximum number of permitted non-EU players.
It would be difficult, though, for even Benitez’s detractors, of which there are plenty in Madrid right now, to pin the blame for an administrative error on him. Real Madrid will have to explain how a club of their size managed to allow such a costly oversight.