Neymar picked the absolute worst time to lose his cool. After picking up two cheap yellow cards in a match against Málaga and sarcastically applauding one of the referees on his way off the pitch, Neymar has been handed a three-match suspension today. That means he’ll have to sit out Barcelona’s critical Clàsico match against Real Madrid.
Here is video of the instances that led to Neymar’s sending off this weekend, which show both the silly card he got for time-wasting in the first half, the rash challenge that earned him his second yellow, the sarcastic clapping, and, to be fair, the numerous ridiculous tackles he was subject to that led to his frustration:
It’s kind of a tough situation. On one hand both Neymar’s cards were deserved, and Barcelona could not afford him to lose his head the way he did. On the other, he and Messi are regularly battered in matches by opponents, yet La Liga’s horrendous referee pool (seriously, the conspiratorial thinking about referees favoring this club or that club is so prevalent and almost understandable in Spain because La Liga refereeing is uniformly garbage, though in a way that ultimately hurts every team in the league close to equally) does not police the behavior with the cards the tackles deserve. So while Neymar was out of line, it’s completely understandable why he would want to take justice into his own hands after the refs had abdicated their duties.
For neutrals, though, the greater matter is the suspension itself. Now the world’s preeminent soccer rivalry match—the famed Clàsico between the two giants of Spanish soccer—will be missing what would’ve been the second best player on the pitch. As is usually the case, the Spanish title will probably come down to which team can get a favorable result in that match. Barça’s job just got way harder without Neymar, who has had a spectacular season and is a critical, irreplaceable component of the team’s playing style. However, judging from how shockingly inconsistent Barça have been this season, maybe this is a good thing for Barça fans’ egos. This way Neymar’s absence can serve as an easy excuse for why they’ll lose the game and the league.