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Keylor Navas' club Real Madrid could be disqualified from Copa del Rey tourney

MADRID, Spain — Real Madrid edged closer to the Spanish Cup exit door Thursday after third-divison Cadiz appealed its midweek defeat because the capital giants had inadvertently fielded a suspended player.

Cadiz confirmed Thursday that, having been given the green light by Spanish football authorities overnight, they had launched an appeal. In the first leg of the team’s fourth-round tie on Wednesday, Russian international Denis Cheryshev not only started the match but also opened the scoring in Madrid’s 3-1 win.

But he shouldn’t have been on the field as he was due to serve a one-match ban in the cup after picking up three yellow cards whilst on loan at Villarreal last season.

In its statement Cadiz claimed it was sorry things had come to this pass saying “we reaffirm our respect for Real Madrid and to their fans, we will make no comment on the matter but leave it to the authorities to decide how to settle it.” Spanish rules are clear, Cheryshev should have been banned for the match.

Though star Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas did not play in the match Wednesday, he was expected to help lead “Los Blancos” through later rounds of the tournament against more challenging competition.

Last season Spanish football saw second division Osasuna booted out of the cup in an almost identical case. And in 2001, current Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez was in charge of Valencia when that team was thrown out of the same competition for fielding four non-EU players when only three were permitted.

As soon as Real realized its error on Wednesday, the team substituted the player and claimed that neither the authorities nor Villarreal had warned them.

“Clearly we didn’t know. Villarreal and the federation hadn’t warned us,” Benitez said. “When we knew we substituted him to show good faith.”

Club president Florentino Pérez held a press conference from Madrid Thursday to explain that the team was never informed that Cheryshev was barred from playing the Copa del Rey opener, and therefore should remain in the tournament.

“What happened last night has never happened to Real Madrid before,” he said. “If we didn’t know, the sanction cannot stand.”

He said the club plans to appeal the decision and take the case to an arbitration court if necessary.

Real Madrid director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno also laid the blame at the Spanish Football Federation and Villarreal for not informing Madrid of the ban.

“I also want to say that Cheryshev himself didn’t know of any possible ban,” Butragueno said.

In July, however, the Spanish football federation had given all clubs a list of the players who were under the threat of a sanction for the season.

“It’s a huge error committed by someone at the club,” said Javier Tebas, the president of the Spanish professional league.

“It hurts me that a tournament such as the Copa del Rey could lose a great team which brings a lot of attractiveness. It hurts me but Real Madrid has to shed some light on what happened.”

But Real found some support for its predicament.

“It’s a bureaucratic error, nothing else,” said former Real player Paco Buyo. “I don’t believe it’s anything of importance.”

The controversy comes during a roller-coaster season for Real Madrid and Navas. The team comfortably qualified for the Champions League round of 16 but is third in La Liga with 27 points, six behind leaders Barcelona and two back from city rivals Atlético, which is in the second spot.

Navas has already set a host of club records in his first full season starting in net and is a finalist for top goalkeeper of the year honors by FIFA’s Top XI team, which is voted on by players.

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