Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid and guard of honour furore which has dominated build-up

There has been one huge talking point in the run-up to the Madrid derby – the guard of honour.

After Real Madrid wrapped up the title last weekend, the stars aligned for their first match as champions to be at the home of local rivals Atletico de Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano.

For weeks, press in Spain have intensely asked the question – will Diego Simeone’s side, themselves champions last season, give their opponents a guard of honour? The answer is no, after Atletico Madrid issued a strong statement claiming the gesture had changed from one of recognition to one laced with humiliation.

Real Madrid legend Guti – a local hero who played over 500 games for the club – believes Atletico are “making a mistake”.And it is one which he acknowledges both Real Madrid and Barcelona have made in the past having rejected the pressure to acknowledge one another’s achievements.

Guti said: “I’ve said several times, I think Barcelona didn’t do it to Real Madrid in its day, Real Madrid didn’t do it to Barcelona in its day, Atletico Madrid don’t want to do it to Real Madrid.

“I don’t think this is good for football. None of the three teams are doing it, in this case it is Atletico Madrid, but both Real Madrid and Barcelona have done this as well.

“I think they’re making a mistake. Above rivalry and what people want, individual players, coaches, or those in the dressing room, I think the club has to be above all this.

“I think the history of Real Madrid is above everyone that is going to play in the match. I think it’s good for whoever gets the guard of honour and it’s good for sport, because it generates this value for sport and a value for work done well during the season.”

Guti believes teams refusing to give a guard of honour are "making a mistake"
Guti believes teams refusing to give a guard of honour are “making a mistake”

In Madrid during the build-up to the game, there has been a clear effort from those on Atletico’s side to downplay the importance of their refusal. They insist that to give Real a guard of honour would go against and disrespect their own supporters and is simply not the right thing to do.

Asked about the hot topic, centre-back Jose Maria Gimenez said: “I would like to congratulate Madrid. I think they won the championship fairly, they’ve been very consistent throughout the entire season and they’ve demonstrated that.

“But obviously us, as players, we respect what the fans say. Without our fans, we are no-one.

“It’s obvious that if our fans don’t want us to do the guard of honour, we don’t want to do that because we have to do what our fans want.”

Jose Maria Gimenez has explained that Atletico de Madrid cannot defy their fans' wishes
Jose Maria Gimenez has explained that Atletico de Madrid cannot defy their fans’ wishes

Goalkeeper Jan Oblak echoed Gimenez’s comments earlier in the week, stating. “As captain I’m one of those who doesn’t like to give or receive the guard of honour. The club will decide and we’ll do whatever is necessary.”

Atletico set out their stall early ahead of the game, releasing a lengthy statement which began: “Some want to turn what was born as a gesture of recognition of the champion into a public toll that must be paid by their rivals, also impregnated with the aroma of humiliation.

“Under no circumstances will Atletico Madrid collaborate in this attempt at derision in which the true values of the sport are completely forgotten and tension and confrontation between fans are encouraged.”

Milinko Pantić, a key part of the Atletico side which won the league and cup double in 1995/96, conceded he has become “bored” by the discussion which has dominated column inches and discussions in the run-up to the derby.

“This week I’ve had so many interviews and I say, ‘what’s the second question’, because the first one is always about the guard of honour, so we move straight onto question number two,” Pantic says.

Barcelona gave Real Betis a guard of honour on Saturday night after they won the Copa del Rey
Barcelona gave Real Betis a guard of honour on Saturday night after they won the Copa del Rey

“I’m getting a bit bored about that particular issue, because there’s been a press release from the club explaining everything, and we have to respect what they say.

“We have to respect our club, the employees of the club and respect their decision. Is it good or bad? It’s not up to me, they’ve all done what they think they should do.”

How can such a problem be avoided in the future? Pantic believes LaLiga should seriously consider bringing in official guidelines or regulations in response to recent events.

“There’s always a lot of politics behind it, but the best thing would be for LaLiga or a federation to make some sort of rule,” he concludes. “So there’s no messing around, we don’t have this conflict and we don’t have the fans getting really worked up about this issue.”

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