Just one fixture in and we already have a new controversy on our hands. Only a few days before the start of this 2019-2020 La Liga campaign, a new regulation regarding tackles from behind was drafted and handed over to all la Liga referees. Coaches and players of all first division teams were also briefed on the matter.

The new rule states that “Every tackle from behind, regardless of the intention, at the level of the Achilles tendon is a straight red card”.

During this first fixture we already witnessed three actions where the application of this new norm, generated some outrage.

Luka Modric against Celta Vigo

At the 56th minute, Modric tried to tackle Denis Suarez on the left flank, only to see himself lose balance in the process and unfortunately stepping on the ex-Barça player’s back heel. In other campaigns, the action would have been sanctioned with a simple yellow. However, now with the new regulation, and after VAR reviewed it, the Croatian Ballon d’Or winner was showed his first-ever career red card.

Modric expressed later on his discontent. He tweeted that ‘It was a fortuitous action of play’ and added that ‘Never in his life he would willingly tackle a colleague with the intention to harm him’.

Sergio Ramos disagreed with him teammate during a post-match presser. The Real Madrid captain considers the sent off ‘fair’ and that unfortunately ‘the new regulation is clear and was well applied’. The Spaniard also applauded the fact that the refereeing committee is now starting to take actions to protect the players’ integrity on the pitch.

Januzaj against Valencia

During the game that faced Valencia to Real Sociedad, Adnan Januzaj made a tackle from behind against Valencia’s Gabriel Paulista, stepping on his Achilles tendon zone. It’s hard to tell when there is an intention or not, but both the referee, Jesus Gil, and VAR deemed the action unworthy of any sanction. The Belgian forward did not even see a yellow card.

If the new rule is to be applied, Januzaj should have been sent off. A decision that outraged both Real Madrid and Valencia fans, for the difference of criteria used to judge both actions.

Jorge Molina against Atletico Madrid

Another game, same action. During the 1-0 victory of the Rojiblancos against Getafe, Jorge Molina has seen a straight red card, as he caught Thomas’ heel while both were running closely. A clearly unintentional action, that was roughly sanctioned, nonetheless.

During the post-match press conference, Getafe’s coach José Bordalás, expressed his bewilderment and incapacity to fathom such a call. According to the Spanish coach, the referee who presented the new rule to him and his players, clearly stated that intention should be taken into consideration.

A point that Atleti’s Simeone disagrees with. The Argentinian stated that ‘the new rule is clear’, adding that ‘Intention is not to be taken into account as no player aims to harm willingly’.

Whilst this new regulation aims to protect players from long term injuries as explained by Carlos Velasco Carballo, head of the refereeing committee in Spain; It still has a lot of grey areas that need to be covered. Although clearly in application, this norm is yet to be redacted as a text of the law, which might lead to some small modifications after this weekend’s controversy.

Players, coaches and referees need to be on the same page, in order to avoid a second year of VAR scandals in La Liga.

Artwork by @chapulana

If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the August issue for just ₤4.99 here.