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Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman urges referees to protect Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar 

The Barcelona manager called for referees protection of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Barcelona manager called for referees protection of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ume Elvis
ANALYST
Modified 16 Feb 2021
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Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has come out to state that referees should do more to protect flair players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar.

Barcelona will host Paris Saint-Germain in a marquee UEFA Champions League fixture on Tuesday. However, the French champions will be without Neymar, who has been ruled out after suffering an adductor injury last week.

Speaking to the media about the absence of the Brazilian, Koeman said:

"Because they are the players who allow us to enjoy ourselves. Referees have to protect them, although there is contact in this sport."

The former Barcelona star has been ruled out of both legs of the clash with the La Liga giants. Neymar was on the receiving end of a horrendous tackle by Caen defender Steeve Yago.

Neymar has constantly been on the wrong end of rash tackles by opposition players, which has led to growing concerns for more protection from referees.

Barcelona manager joined by contemporaries in asking referees to protect players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo make the game entertaining to watch.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo make the game entertaining to watch.

In addition to Neymar, Lionel Messi is another player who draws a disproportionate number of tackles against him.

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Both players are highly skilled and technical individuals whose close control and change of pace make them extremely difficult to mark. This sees opposition players deploy aggressive tactics in a bid to stop them.

Although the Barcelona captain still has a relatively good fitness record despite the rough challenges, the same cannot be said about Neymar. The 29-year-old has faced several long-term injuries owing to bad tackles, which has hampered his club's fortunes on the continent.

Several coaches in the past have called for the protection of their flair players. Jose Mourinho did so for Eden Hazard while he was at Chelsea and Alexis Sanchez while he was at Manchester United.

Cristiano Ronaldo was also on the receiving end of several bad tackles while he was younger. However, he has since evolved his game away from his pacy winger days.

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The introduction of VAR has helped curb some of the harsher tackles which might have escaped the referee's eyes in the past. However, there is still more need for a proactive stance in wiping out cynical play against the game's most entertaining players.

Whether the increased calls for protecting players like Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi will yield dividends remains to be seen.

Published 16 Feb 2021, 20:03 IST
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