Manuel Pellegrini’s painful apology over extraordinary comments about Swedish referees too late for Uefa

 

Manuel Pellegrini, the Manchester City manager, has retracted his extraordinary comments about Swedish referees and the allegation that bias from one of them caused City’s defeat to Barcelona on Tuesday, with an apology that has come too late to avoid a Uefa disciplinary charge.

European football’s governing body last night charged Pellegrini with violating their principles of conduct – which may bring him a three-game touchline ban when his case his heard on Friday – the Chilean delivered one of the most effusive apologies from a manager in recent years. He effectively declared that he meant virtually none of the criticisms he levelled in the aftermath of the 2-0 defeat, refereed by Swede Jonas Eriksson.

“Maybe I say some things I didn’t mean in that way so I apologise for what I said,” said Pellegrini, who declared that defeat to Barcelona would not be “a big disappointment” since reaching the Champions League round of 16 was a new frontier for his club. He recanted his claims, levelled late on Tuesday, that “football is more important in Europe than Sweden” and that it was “not a good idea to put a referee from Sweden in charge,” and insisted these were beliefs that he did not hold.

“It is not an offence to Sweden or the Swedish people or referees,” Pellegrini said, struggling with his moderate English to give full voice to his apology. “Sweden is a country that has a lot of good players. They have one of the best in the world in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and it can also have a good referee. The thing I said in that moment doesn’t mean what I think. But I didn’t say any serious accusation about Sweden, just that it was not the most important league in Europe and that is not an offence, I think.”

Pellegrini did not withdraw the suggestion that the spot-kick awarded against Martin Demichelis was a balancing up for two penalties the Swede had denied Barcelona when they played Milan in 2011 – but said the allocation of referees was none of his business. He added Eriksson had had a “bad day” in awarding the penalty for a foul he still feels was outside the penalty area.

The City manager expects Sergio Aguero to be back in training with the first-team squad by the middle of next week after a hamstring injury. Vincent Kompany is fit to play Stoke City at home today, with Matija Nastasic ruled out.

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