Gareth Bale's celebration after scoring his 100th Real Madrid goal could cost the 29-year-old as many as 12 matches this season if La Liga and the Spanish Football Association judge his actions were "obscene."
Bale celebrated after netting the clinching goal in Los Blancos' 3-1 win away to city rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday. What followed was interpreted by some as "a gesture of possible obscene and derogatory meaning," per a statement from La Liga (h/t Goal's Chris Burton).
The Wales international was said to have "gestured in the direction of fans close to the sideline when celebrating after taking abuse from the terraces," according to Burton.
According to the BBC: "Bale raised his bent arm and hit it with his other hand, a gesture that is considered offensive in Spain."
While Bale's celebration didn't make it into the referee's report, it has been reported to the league for investigation.
The Spanish top flight revealed a suspension of as little as four or as many 12 games will be levied on Bale if the former Tottenham Hotspur star is deemed to have caused offence.
Another point from the statement read: "If the animosity is from the public, the suspension will be from one to three parties (games) or for a period of up to one month."
The language about the nature of the deliberations is somewhat complex:
The distinction concerns whether Bale meant to anger the Atletico fans or if his celebration inadvertently caused consternation among the home support.
Burton also noted how La Liga won't be the only governing body sitting in judgement on Bale's actions. The Spanish FA will ultimately rubber stamp any punishment, with La Liga said to be "confident" Bale will only be hit with a three-match ban.
A ban of any length would come at the worst possible time for Bale. He has been slowly and steadily working his way back into the graces of manager Santiago Solari amid a campaign otherwise defined by injuries and middling form.
After coming off the bench against Atleti and bringing up a century of goals, Bale was handed a start for Wednesday's 2-1 win away to Ajax in the UEFA Champions League last 16.
The fact he only lasted 61 minutes was a tacit reminder of not only Bale's shaky fitness record, but also of Real no longer being as reliant on him. Solari has many other wide forwards he can count on.
Lucas Vazquez replaced Bale, while 18-year-old Vinicius Junior, who assisted Karim Benzema's winner in Amsterdam, is developing rapidly and is already threatening Bale's place:
Bale needs to be maximising the minutes available to him before Real begin to think they can live without a player who broke the world transfer record when he moved to the Spanish capital back in 2013.
The length of any ban will surely have crucial implications for the rest of Bale's career in Spain.