By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona could be thrown out of the Copa del Rey for fielding suspended defender Chumi Brandariz in their last-16 first leg defeat after opponents Levante said on Thursday they would lodge a complaint with the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).
Barca won 3-0 in the second leg to go through 4-2 on aggregate but before the game Levante president Quico Catalan said his club would contact the federation on Friday.
If the RFEF ruled against Barca, who deny breaking any rules, they would be thrown out of the Copa, which they have won for the last four years, with Levante given a bye.
The biggest stumbling block to any complaint is that the deadline expired on Monday, though the RFEF has previously approved claims made by teams after a deadline has passed.
Teenager Chumi’s ineligibility for the first leg was revealed in a story by Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Thursday.
Catalan told reporters before the second leg: “It’s not an easy situation, sporting people like to win matches on the pitch. But whatever happens on the pitch, tomorrow (Friday) Levante will hand this matter over to the federation”.
“We believe there is enough jurisprudence that, unfortunately, obliges us to inform the federation about these facts.”
Barcelona spokesman Josep Vives said his club believed Chumi, 19, was eligible to play in the Copa game.
“We are surprised. We didn’t know about this situation, we found out through the press,” he told reporters.
“We’ve analysed the situation and concluded that playing Chumi in the Copa del Rey was within the rules. The federation have also told us nothing.”
The RFEF declined to comment on Levante’s plans to lodge a complaint when contacted by Reuters on Thursday.
Chumi got a fifth yellow card in a Barca B game against Castellon on Jan. 6 and was banned for their next game against Alcoyano on Jan. 13, a suspension he later served.
However, the young Spanish defender started the Barca senior team’s 2-1 Copa defeat at Levante on Jan. 10.
RFEF rules state that a suspended player cannot feature for the senior team until he has completed a sanction.
But Vives said: “We believe that he (Chumi) has a licence to play in Segunda B (third tier). Taking into account last year’s (RFEF) memo, the sanction should be served in the division he plays in. We believe we have complied with the rules.”
Real Madrid were expelled from the 2015-16 Copa del Rey for fielding Russian winger Denis Cheryshev in a last-32 match against Cadiz when he was supposed to be serving a suspension earned from the previous season when he played for Villarreal.
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)