Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.
Federico Valverde helped Real Madrid win the Spanish Super Cup against their city rivals Atletico Madrid on Sunday with one of the most cynical fouls you’ll ever see – and somehow won man of the match, as well as a pardon from opposition manager Diego Simeone.
Let’s set the scene for you. You’re playing in a final against your closest rivals. It’s 0-0. So far, so turgid. Extra time. Alvaro Morata gets through on goal. You can let him through, or hack him down. What do you do?
If you’re Valverde, there’s no question.
He was sent off for this exhibition of the dark arts, but Real went on to win the match 4-1 on penalties.
Thousands of fans went on social media praising the 21-year-old Uruguay midfielder’s actions, with hundreds calling for a statue to be erected in his honour.
Real Madrid later posted a picture on Instagram of Valverde holding the man of the match trophy with the caption “Not all heroes wear capes.”
After the match, the player apologised to Spanish forward Morata, adding: “I know it’s not good what I did, but I didn’t have any other option.”
That’s kind of… admirable… we guess?
Simeone certainly seemed to think so – which is perhaps surprising until you remember he wasn’t exactly shy of the dark arts during his own playing career (David Beckham, are you reading this?)
After the game, former Argentina midfielder Simeone said: “The award for the best player had to do with that piece of play.
“Valverde won the final; it was the most important piece of play. It was probably going to be a goal. I told him that he did what he had to do at that moment.”
What’s more, despite being sent off, Valverde was also chosen by Spain coach Luis Enrique as man of the match.
Not everyone favoured that decision, including Spanish newspaper AS.AS English✔@English_AS ·
Valverde wins man of the match. Which is clearly completely wrong.AS English✔@English_AS
To make it clear: Valverde was clearly one of best players on pitch, and he did what he had to do to stop Morata, but, in our humble opinion, it sets a terrible example to give the MVP to a player who’s been sent off like that. We’d have given it to Courtois.206Twitter Ads info and privacy60 people are talking about thisReport
How does Valverde’s skulduggery rank?
One of the archetypes has to be Valverde’s compatriot Luis Suarez handballing on the line to deny Ghana’s Dominic Adiyiah and wildly celebrating the subsequent missed penalty that saw Ghana knocked out of the World Cup in 2010.
Then you have Pepe’s histrionic tumble after the slightest touch from Morocco’s Medhi Benatia at the World Cup in 2018.
Or, further back in the annals, Cristiano Ronaldo winking after successfully lobbying the referee to have his then Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney sent off for England at the World Cup in 2006.