Jeddah: Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde earned unlikely praise from Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone for a deliberate foul that denied Atletico a late scoring chance and potentially cost them Sunday’s Super Cup final.
The final, which Real won 4-1 on penalties, was goalless with five minutes left of extra time when Atletico forward Alvaro Morata raced towards goal with a glorious chance to score.
He was brought down, however, outside the box by a sliding Valverde, who was shown a straight red card for the lunge on the striker.
Real survived the remaining minutes as the game ended 0-0 and they scored all their spot-kicks to become the first side to win the Super Cup since it was turned into a four-team event and transported to Saudi Arabia.
Uruguay international Valverde, meanwhile, was named Man of the Match despite — or perhaps because of — his cynical foul.
“It was the most important moment of the match because if the play had continued it could possibly have led to a goal,” said Simeone, who consoled Valverde as he walked off the pitch following the red card.
“I told him not to worry anyone would have done what he did in his place, he did what he had to do,” added the Argentine coach, who was no stranger to football’s dark arts as a player.
Real president Florentino Perez was grateful to the 21-year-old for keeping his side in the match, saying: “Fede avoided a clear scoring opportunity and gave us the chance to stay in the game.”
Valverde said he had spoken to Morata after the game and felt some remorse for his actions.
“I apologised to Morata. What I did is not good but it was all I could do. I’m happy to win the trophy but I feel a small sense of regret for that,” said the Uruguayan.
“My teammates and the coaches supported me and Simeone also came up to me, that’s not something everyone does.”
Real coach Zinedine Zidane joined Perez in praising Valverde for the selfless act, which helped his team win their first trophy of the season.
“He did well, it was what he had to do and then he apologised to Morata,” said the Frenchman after collecting his 10th crown as Real coach and his first since rejoining the club last March.
“Fede won the prize and it belongs to him but it also belongs to everyone else in the team for the effort they made.”