|Iniesta thought he was picking up a one-way ticket to the Bernabeu|
Iniesta picked up a caution for failing to retreat the required distance at a free-kick during the quarter-final first leg against Shakhtar Donetsk, triggering a one-game ban which saw him sit out the second leg in the Ukraine.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and for Iniesta it meant he could return with a clean slate for the semi-final first leg, which turns out to be against El Classico rivals Real Madrid.
The imposed sanction comes after UEFA match officials alleged Iniesta’s faux pas was deliberately incurred.
But Iniesta is only guilty of flouting an absurd rule that needs reviewing.
Article 22 of the Regulations of the Champions League 2010/11 states:
“In case of repeated cautions:
…from the first match in the group stage, a player is suspended for the next competition match after three cautions in three different matches, as well as following any subsequent odd-numbered caution (fifth, seventh, ninth, etc).”
This law is flawed.
It means a player could potentially miss the Champions League final for incurring three misery yellow cards in the ten games it takes to get to Wembley.
That hardly merits a suspension of that magnitude, does it?
Sure, if a player is a menace on the field and is a constant threat to his fellow professionals, one could argue the suspensions are serving their purpose.
But anyone who watches the bread-and-butter of our domestic game, then tunes in to watch Europe’s premier knock-out competition will tell you the referees are far more trigger-happy on the continent.
Free-kicks and yellow cards are dished out like hot cakes, just ask Duncan Ferguson how he faired with Pierluigi Collina when Everton flirted with The Champions League in 2005.
A suspension is easily acquired from three innocuous fouls.
Yes, Iniesta’s petulance merited a booking, and the footage does not look good for the gifted Spaniard as he awaits UEFA’s decision on Wednesday.
If the ban is imposed, the Spanish midfielder will sit out the crunch first leg against Real on 27 April at the Santiago Bernabeu.
But Iniesta’s infringement is understandable, considering the baffling rules that are in place.
Why should he have missed the first leg of the semi-final for acquiring three yellow cards?
It is not as if he is a constant threat on the field, in fact he is quite the opposite, and to deny a player of his quality the opportunity to showcase his talents in a game of this magnitude would be farcical to say the least.
Yes the rules are in place, but he has worked within their ludicrous nature to ensue he and his team have the best possible chance of winning a fourth European title.
If UEFA don’t like it, they should flag up their own performance and regulations. Not Iniesta’s.