Jose Mourinho and four of his Real Madrid players are facing the threat of suspension from the last-16 round of the Champions League following seemingly coordinated red cards in Real's 4-0 win over Ajax on Tuesday. Mourinho, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas and Jerzy Dudek have all been charged by Uefa with unsporting conduct and will face Uefa's control and disciplinary body on Tuesday.
The charges relate to the red cards received by Alonso and Ramos in the final minutes of Tuesday's match at the Amsterdam ArenA. Real were 4-0 up with five minutes remaining and had therefore guaranteed not only progress to the last 16 but also finishing top of Group G. Alonso, who had been booked halfway through the second half, then took so long over a free-kick in his own half that he was shown a yellow card for time-wasting and sent off.
In the first minute of stoppage time Ramos, already booked in the first half, took over goal-kick duties from Casillas but delayed so long that he too was booked for time-wasting and sent off.
Mourinho, Alonso, and Ramos have been charged, along with Dudek and Casillas who allegedly helped to communicate the instructions. A Uefa official said yesterday that the accused, if found guilty on Tuesday, would "obviously" not be excluded from Uefa competitions, meaning that a fine or an extended ban remains the most likely sanctions. Under similar circumstances in 2008 Cris and Juninho of Lyons were fined €10,000 and €15,000 respectively.
Ramos is not worried about any punishment. "There's no need to keep talking about this," said the right-back. "It's something which has been forgotten. It's time to turn over the page and think about the Clasico (match against Barcelona). I don't fear any sanction because I don't believe that I've done anything illegal."
Suspensions extended further into the knockout stage would be a heavy blow to Real, who are desperate to make it past the Champions League last 16 for the first time since 2004. In each of the last six seasons the nine-times European Cup winners have been eliminated in the first knockout round, including a 5-0 aggregate defeat to Liverpool in 2009 and surprise losses to Roma and Lyons.
Suspicions were raised by the similarity of the dismissals, as well as their unusual nature in a game that was effectively over. The calculating aspect of Real's behaviour lay in the fact that Ramos and Alonso would only be suspended for their final group game with Auxerre, a dead rubber as Real had already won Group G.
Both players had been booked earlier on in the group stage: Alonso in Real's home win over Ajax and Ramos away in Auxerre. A suspension for the sixth group game would clean their disciplinary records. Had they not been sent off against Ajax, they would be vulnerable to a third yellow card and suspension later on in the tournament.
Allegations of instruction from the Real bench were furthered by footage of Mourinho in discussions with substitute goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek during the second half of the match, and Dudek's subsequent discussions with both Alonso and Ramos. Moreover, Mourinho was seen speaking to Alonso in the technical area minutes before the dismissal of the former Liverpool midfielder.
Mourinho denied that there was anything particularly suspect about his discussions with his players. "I spoke with many players throughout the game, not only with Ramos and Alonso," he said after the match. "Stories sell, but the important thing is the 4-0 win and the fantastic game we had. Let's talk about that and not other things."