Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling has hit out at the quality of officials in England, claiming players could miss the World Cup because they’re being “butchered” by bad challenges.
City star Leroy Sane was sidelined for up to seven weeks after a bad tackle by Cardiff’s Joe Bennett in their 2-0 win in the FA Cup last weekend.
Referee Bobby Madley then failed to show a red card to West Brom’s Matt Phillips after his knee-high challenge on youngster Brahim Diaz in the closing stages.
It follows a glut of incidents on City players this season, none of which were punished with dismissals.
Manager Pep Guardiola has repeatedly asked for referees to protect the players, but his calls appear to fallen on deaf ears.
But now Sterling, 23, is backing up his manager, saying the nature of the tackles could put those on the receiving end in serious trouble.
He said: “I find it a bit unfair at times. I feel that we haven’t been protected enough in certain situations. I think some of the challenges have been awful.
“It’s not what I expect to see in a top flight football match — especially when teams are losing and just go out to kick players.
“I don’t think that’s right. I do think we need to cut down on that because we’ve got a World Cup at the end of the year and majority of the players in the top flight and in our team will be playing in it.
“It would be sad to see someone miss the tournament due to a silly tackle and someone get away with it.
“These tackles can happen — but it can’t be every game we’re getting two players coming in with injuries.
“There are going to be challenges that are badly timed and probably not all of them are intentional, but at the same time if it’s a dangerous tackle, it’s a dangerous tackle.
“I think the referees and officials need to cut these tackles out because as you can see some of the players are getting butchered out there and it’s sad to see.
“But I just feel we need to try and cut this out of the game.”
Guardiola has called for officials to protect not just his stars, but all players — though he has not had much support from his peers.
Cardiff boss Neil Warnock commented after the FA Cup tie that Guardiola should expect strong challenges in England, while West Brom manager Alan Pardew accused the Catalan of trying to get the crowd to put pressure on the referee.
It was sparked by several weeks of incidents that could have left some of the Premier League leaders’ team badly hurt.
Kevin De Bruyne was stretchered off at Crystal Palace after being hacked down by Jason Puncheon, weeks after he was on the receiving end of a studs-up challenge by Tottenham’s Dele Alli.
Sterling was also caught late by Harry Kane in the first half of that match, which finished 4-1 to City.
City already have long-term injury problems with Benjamin Mendy, Gabriel Jesus and Sane still missing.