Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has accused reporters of a lack of consistency in their treatment of Neymar’s disciplinary record.
The Brazil international has been booked three times in his last five games and is suspended for the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid next week.
Neymar, though, was fouled seven times in a fiery first leg at the Vicente Calderon which saw him heckled by the home supporters.
And ahead of Barca’s LaLiga match against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, it was suggested to Luis Enrique that Neymar may not receive enough protection given he is one of Spain’s most fouled players, albeit one who regularly gets carded himself.
The Barca head coach claimed to be surprised to hear a supportive question, given he perceives Neymar and many of his team-mates to have been criticised by the press.
Luis Enrique said: “My players receive more tackles and fouls than other teams, that is true. And they do tend to get lots of cards as well – strangely they are one of the most booked teams – so make what you will of that. We just focus on getting better every day.
“People are always trying to come up with these campaigns to get my players off balance. Firstly there are campaigns to discredit my players and then the same media come up with things saying we are unfairly treated, ‘You make three fouls and you get three cards’.
“I can only praise my players because they have had to play during this season in situations where they have had to keep their heads brilliantly.
“I don’t want to speak more on this topic [of refereeing], as it is best not to mess with something you cannot control.
“This type of talk is just what football is about, especially at big clubs. Let everyone say what they want to say.”