An angry Carlos Carvalhal fears Fernando Forestieri could suffer a broken leg unless he gets more protection from referees.
The Sheffield Wednesday striker was booked on Tuesday night against MK Dons for diving – the third time he has been wrongly accused of cheating in three months – after a crunching tackle. The 26-year-old was also accused of simulation against Preston North End and Hull City in February, which saw him sent off in successive games.
After the incident at the KC Stadium, when Michael Dawson fouled the Argentinian, only to be booked for diving, Owls head coach Carvalhal demanded urgent talks with refereeing officials.
Carvalhal said the Owls were assured by the the Professional Game Match officials Board (PGMOL) – headed by Mike Riley and responsible for officiating in the Premier League, Football League and FA competitions – that Forestieri would not be judged on reputation, but what happens on the pitch.
But after seeing the striker booked again for diving on Tuesday, and also denied a penalty, Carvalhal fears his star player could be left on crutches before football chiefs take him seriously.
“It’s something we don’t understand,” said Carvalhal. “The fans sometimes say ‘Carlos, the club are doing nothing’ because Forestieri did not dive.
“We use the correct channels. After the Hull game we called for someone from the referees group to come talk to us.
“We talked with him, and he agreed with us 100 per cent.
“He promised to us that he would talk to the referees and don’t use Fernando’s image, just analyse the situation.
“Now we have this incident. If they have tried to prevent this situation, why is it happening again? It’s very bad for the club, bad for the image of the player, and we are not happy. It’s very serious. We don’t understand and we need an explanation.
“We want to believe this is normal, but this incident (on Tuesday) was so obvious.
“They are kicking him, we should take a photo of his legs, he has a lot of ‘medals’ there. There must be more than 20 kicks on his legs, you can see the marks.
“Do we wait until he breaks his leg before everybody says ‘oh it’s very serious, we must do something’?
“I think our fans deserve an explanation on how we are trying to protect Fernando.
“There are limits, and we are at that limit now,” added Carvalhal, whose side travel to play-off rivals Derby County tomorrow without the suspended Ross Wallace.
The Portuguese head coach admitted he would have jumped out of the tackles, at Hull and MK Dons, if he had been in Forestieri’s boots, to avoid serious injury.
And insisted his striker was being punished unfairly.
He said: “I have never seen this before. You know in my country players dive a little.
“I have never seen anything like this, and I do not understand.
“When someone dives, okay yellow card. But when the same player receives a hard kick, and the interpretation of three different referees is the same, that he has dived, I don’t understand.
“What can Fernando do differently? If he dived, he can stop diving. But you have seen the kicks. If I were in that situation at Hull, and MK Dons, and I was Fernando I would dived because I don’t want to break a leg.
“But even if I dive, it’s a foul. You don’t need to break a leg for it to be a foul.
“It’s so hard, because if one goes to give you a kick - and you jump because you don’t want to be kicked - that’s normal, instinct.
“But Fernando didn’t dive, the opponent really kicked him, and he then receives a yellow card. It’s amazing and something very strange.”