Atletico Madrid CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin has said Real Madrid's "huge influence" and the pressure it puts on referees affects their decisions, after Madrid's 3-1 comeback win over Atletico in Thursday's Copa del Rey quarterfinal.
Alvaro Morata put Atletico ahead in the 19th minute at the Bernabeu and Rodrygo's 79th-minute equaliser forced extra time, when goals from Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior put Madrid into the semifinals. Atletico were unhappy with referee Cesar Soto Grado's decision not to show midfielder Dani Ceballos a second yellow card for a challenge on Thomas Lemar, before sending off defender Stefan Savic at 1-1.
- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
"I have the utmost respect for referees and I'm convinced that they always have the best intentions," Gil Marin said in a statement published on Atletico's website on Friday. "But anyone who looks at it from the outside can see that for decades now, the same thing almost always happens. Unfortunately, it doesn't surprise anybody anymore, it isn't news.
"[Real] Madrid are a club with a huge influence, with a lot of interests around them. They create so much pressure that it's normal that it affects the people who have to take decisions. They're aware of what awaits them if they harm them with a mistake, or even if they get something right. We often see a campaign against whoever they believe has hurt them."
The rivalry between the two Madrid clubs has been hard-fought since Diego Simeone took over as Atletico coach in 2011, with Atletico winning two league titles in 2014 and 2021, and losing to Real in two Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016.
"That stadium [the Bernabeu] and the colour of that shirt shouldn't carry weight when it's time to take fair decisions," Gil Marin said. "On the pitch [on Thursday] our players suffered the consequences of all that pressure and that angers me like any fan, of any team, who only expects that everyone is treated equally.
"The second yellow card [for Ceballos] was obvious, unquestionable, according to the laws. But at 0-1, in the 71st minute, playing for a place in the Copa semifinals at its own stadium, leaving Real Madrid with 10 men is a big deal."
Thursday's Copa defeat -- having been ahead for an hour -- means finishing in the LaLiga top four is Atletico's only objective this season, with Simeone under pressure after a disappointing campaign.
"We've got used to the system," Gil Marin said. "We read pages and pages in the newspapers, hours of radio and TV, in the days before a derby talking about how a certain player from a certain team has to be protected. Honestly, I think that who wasn't protected [on Thursday] was [Antoine] Griezmann or Morata, for example, who were kicked all night, but that's the system.
"I hardly ever speak, because you're quickly accused of considering yourself a victim, but whoever really knows Atletico Madrid's DNA knows that we don't like making excuses. For the avoidance of doubt: we are responsible for where the team is, for not progressing from the Champions League group stage and for being seven points behind the third-placed team in LaLiga. And making the most of the 20 league games [we have left] to end the season as high [up the table] as possible is up to us."
Atletico play away at Osasuna in LaLiga on Sunday, before Real Madrid host in-form Real Sociedad.
Speaking at a news conference to preview that game, Atletico coach Diego Simeone stood behind Gil Marin's statement.
"Since I've been here we've never looked for excuses," he said. "We've always tried to do our bit. With VAR and a lot of other new things, I think they've made the game better, fairer. But obviously with such an extremely clear situation [the failure to send off Ceballos] he's expressed what a lot of people feel, with total clarity, which is healthy."
When asked what has to change, Simeone added: "It isn't about changing [things], because it won't change. The subconscious is at play, and that makes everything difficult. We have to accept what we have and compete as well as we can to keep improving.
"There are things which are very clear. It seems like you're looking for excuses but we've never done that. We played well, we played the game we wanted to play. Things happened, the two moments [Ceballos and Savic] were understood differently. But it happened. Nobody cares. We're out, they're in. It's good that the voice of the club has said what we all saw."