Sergio Ramos and 20 El Clasico Dismissals and Referee Controversies
Another El Clasico fixture in La Liga has passed us by, bringing with it the usual glorious haul of goals, talking points and overflowing emotion—along with a customary red card and a questionable refereeing decision or two.
No matter whether Real Madrid or Barcelona end up on the winning side, someone always feels hard done by at the final whistle.
Here's a round-up of some of the biggest talking points that the fixture has generated over the years, starting with Sunday night's red card, penalty decisions and more besides.
Needless to say, in a fixture that generates as many moments of madness as sublime skill, we don't have to delve too far back in time in our 20 incidents.
1. Sergio Ramos: 19th Career Red Card for the Spanish International
Let's kick off with the main talking point from Sunday: Sergio Ramos was shown a straight red card for tugging back Neymar and conceding a penalty in the process.
Some viewers say there was no foul and no contact, others claim enough of a clash of legs to send the Brazilian forward spinning.
Whether it was merited or not, this was Ramos' third red-card offence against Barcelona.
2. Dani Alves vs. Cristiano Ronaldo: Red Card or Free-Kick?!
Earlier in the match, Cristiano Ronaldo won the first penalty of the evening as he burst past a challenge from Barcelona right-back Dani Alves—before tumbling over his outstretched leg to win a penalty.
Real Madrid players argued it was a goalscoring chance and the Brazilian should have been sent off, but the referee declined to do so.
Whether it was a red or not is up for debate—but the awarding of a penalty was simply wrong. The foul took place a step outside of the penalty area and only a free-kick should have been awarded.
3. Match-Winning Penalty
The third big penalty call of the night was the most telling one of all.
Andres Iniesta ghosted between a dual challenge from Dani Carvajal and Xabi Alonso, crashing to the ground inside the penalty area.
There wasn't much, if any, intent on the part of either defender to stop the attacker, but the referee signalled a third spot-kick which Leo Messi dispatched; his own hat-trick and the winning goal for Barcelona on the night.
4. Pepe and Cesc, Post-Goal
Just after Messi buried his first of three goals on the night, Pepe predictably took offence to whoever was closest to him at the time—Cesc Fabregas, as it turned out.
He took exception to an apparent barge past on his way to retrieve the ball before going forehead-to-forehead with the Barca midfielder and thrusting his own forward, sending Cesc to ground.
Again predictably, he then threw himself to ground to intimate it was he who had been struck.
Both players were yellow-carded for the incident—Pepe should have gone off.
5. Trodden All over
Pepe probably isn't going to be up for any sympathy awards any time soon, but let's face it, nobody likes to have their head stood on, do they?
This post-match analysis showed Sergio Busquets apparently walking backward to tread momentarily on the face of the Portuguese defender, who lay prone on the ground at the time after his altercation with Cesc Fabregas.
Should it be deemed to have been on purpose, Sergio will almost certainly get banned—the referee either didn't see it or chose not to take action at the time.
6. No Red Card for Ronaldo Elbow?
Another talking point from the weekend's fixture was what appeared to be a blatant and purposeful arm—or elbow—to the face of Javier Mascherano from Ronaldo.
The Real man appears to look first and then send his arm into the face of the Barca defender but only received a yellow card from the referee.
7. Carvalho and Messi
Let's continue the elbows theme a little.
Here's Ricardo Carvalho "accidentally" elbowing Lionel Messi in the face as he gesticulates his displeasure wildly at one decision or another.
Because there's no way he knew Messi was right there, right?
8. Arms, Arms Everywhere
First here's Pepe throwing an arm into the face of the always-dramatic (and always a second late to react) Jordi Alba as the pair run at full speed.
Then it's roles reversed, as Barcelona man Javier Mascherano goes barrelling through the skull of Karim Benzema in an aerial challenge.
9. Another Ramos Red in 2012
Sergio Ramos was again on the receiving end of a red card in El Clasico after an alleged elbow on Sergio Busquets.
The defender had earlier already been booked before the aerial incident, which left Real with 10 men for the final stages of the Copa del Rey fixture.
Deliberate elbow or a mid-air clash? You decide.
10. Victor Valdes Shown a Red After Full-Time
Defeat in El Clasico can do funny things to players.
Enraged at what he perceived to be a series of poor refereeing decisions, Victor Valdes charged from his goal at the final whistle and headed straight to berate the official.
Even though the match was over, the ref showed Valdes a yellow and then a red card, leading to a four-match ban.
11. Adriano Makes It Easy
The only possible controversy here would be if the referee somehow decided this one wasn't a sending-off offence.
Adriano manages to miss his interception, then miss the tackle and compound it all by dragging, pulling and pushing Cristiano Ronaldo to the ground as the Portuguese forward attempted to sprint through on goal.
Nobody else was on the cover and few would catch him anyway; a clear red for Adriano in the Super Copa in 2012. Real were already 2-0 up at the time and eventually won 2-1.
12. Sergio Ramos' First El Clasico Red
Of course, we wouldn't be missing out Sergio Ramos' first appearance on the El Clasico sendings-off list. Nothing controversial about this refereeing decision, mind.
Having already been booked earlier in the match, Ramos went into a challenge on Messi with the intention of doing nothing more than kicking him as hard as he could to stop the attacker's run.
He then also shoved Carles Puyol in the face and Xavi in the chest for good measure on his way off the pitch after being shown a straight red card.
13, 14 & 15: Marcelo's Horror Tackle and the Ensuing Fight with Villa and Ozil
A three-in-one for you this time.
Things get heated up over by the touchline as Real left-back Marcelo goes scything into a dreadful challenge on Cesc Fabregas—he seems to be on the receiving end of a fair bit in these games, doesn't he?!—and is rightfully shown a straight red card.
Coaches, subs and everybody else jump up to protest or rant, leading to a melee of around 30 people crowded around the prone Cesc.
In the midst of it all, Mesut Ozil takes exception to a push from David Villa, leading to a full-scale shoving match between the two—both are subsequently shown straight reds as well. Neither player was even involved in the game at the time!
16. Rightful Red for Pepe?
This one from 2011 is still debated.
Pepe ran through one tackle and threw himself into another, catching Dani Alves studs up and right on the shin, sending the full-back spinning through the air and receiving a deserved straight red.
Or, depending on your point of view, Pepe won the ball once, then made a block on Alves, making contact with the ball and not the man, and receiving a highly debatable and controversial red.
Barca won the game 2-0—Pinto was also sent off for Barcelona.
17. Albiol Sees Red
Into 2011 we go here, as Real Madrid and Barcelona fought out a 1-1 draw courtesy of a pair of penalties.
David Villa was manhandled to the ground by Raul Albiol, and the defender was subsequently sent off early in the second half.
"You can't argue with that," says the commentator, as the camera pans to a protesting Jose Mourinho.
18. Goals Disallowed
It's difficult to say how many perfectly good goals have been ruled out in these games because of less-than-spectacular decision-making by the officials, but with players throwing themselves to ground right, left and centre, it's probably not all that surprising.
Here's a good example: Pepe headed home a cross from the left which would have given Real Madrid a commanding 3-0 lead in the Super Copa in 2012.
The ref disallowed it after seemingly spotting a foul on Javier Mascherano, just before Pepe headed home. Hands up if you see the infringement...
19. Jordi Alba's Ever-Growing Collection of Dives
How Jordi Alba has so far escaped major censure in an El Clasico is one of the great mysteries of the fixture.
Aside from the odd dodgy tackle, the left-back is continually seen to be throwing himself to ground after the most meaningless of contacts with opposition players, in a style and manner that Pepe himself might be proud of.
This might be his best yet—he decided he needed treatment on the pitch as everybody else traipsed off for half-time, after Alvaro Arbeloa's shoulder almost went through his chest, so hard and thunderous was the contact made.
It's not his only transgression of this ilk though.
20. Reputations or Referees?
We'll finish up with just one example of a whole host of could-have-been-a-penalty incidents which seem to occur in every El Clasico.
Here's Valdes flapping inexcusably at a cross and then fouling for what should have been an absolute stonewall penalty for Cristiano Ronaldo—but it was denied by the ref, whose view was entirely unobscured.
It's simply an awful decision; not the first, definitely not the worst and inevitably not the last in this fixture.
When it goes against the blaugrana, Real are paying off officials. When it goes against Real, it's Barca who are shamelessly cheating their way to a title.
What we actually have are two enormously talented teams who will do anything to win, from the spectacular to the unsavoury.