Diego Simeone is right about why Real Madrid win more penalties

Diego Simeone (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)
Diego Simeone (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid have received criticisms from players and fans of other teams for winning penalty decisions via VAR.

Video Assistant Referee has completely changed La Liga, and while the hope was that it would lead to more clarity and accountability in the game, it has led to even more controversy due to how VAR is implemented and how reviews only magnify the difficult nature of calls. Real Madrid, as one of the biggest clubs in Europe, have received forceful criticisms, with many fans believing Los Blancos receive more favorable calls due to their stature.

Of course, Real fans are quick to point out all the times Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have received favorable calls, and they also point out examples, such as Raphael Varane in December’s Clasico, of them not getting penalty calls they should have.

After the 2019-2020 season, all the leagues implementing VAR will need to take a step back and reexamine how often they overturn borderline decisions that are not “clear and obvious”. But in the meantime, Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone had some useful insight on why it is only natural for a club like Real Madrid to win so many penalties.

Here’s what Simeone said in a press conference, via Goal.com’s Tom Webber:

"“It is fairer. If they give you more penalties, it’s because you are in the opposition’s area more. If they attack more, like Real Madrid, it means you are there longer."

Simeone spoke more at length about how VAR is, indeed, fair because of the way it exposes situations more to the fans. But this snippet of the press conference is the most relevant to Madridistas.

And the derby rival’s manager is absolutely correct. It makes sense for teams that spend more time in the penalty area to have more opportunities to draw penalties. Real Madrid press high up the pitch, have the position advantage, and spend a lot of the time trying to make penetrating runs into the box, especially with their fullbacks. Those are the players who drew fouls in back-to-back weeks for penalties.

There’s also the matter that more skilled players are more likely to draw penalties. Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Eden Hazard, for example, frequently draw penalties because defenses get scared and make poor tackles or mistime tackles against a skillful dribbler. In Hazard, Marcelo, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Isco, and Vinicius Junior, Real have plenty of those types of players.

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If there is a primary bias towards big clubs, then it is in the frequency of penalty shouts because of their style of play. And if there is a more insidious bias regarding influence in the game and the marketing power of large clubs for their leagues, which can be seen across leagues, then it would surely benefit Barcelona as much as Real Madrid.