Real Madrid have launched an internal inquiry after Argentina winger Angel di Maria was seen to grab his crotch while he was being substituted in Monday’s 3-0 La Liga win at home to RC Celta de Vigo.
Di Maria, who was replaced by Gareth Bale midway through the second half at the Santiago Bernabeu and was whistled by the home fans as he trudged off, insisted it was “a natural gesture” and said he apologized if anyone had found it offensive.
The incident was widely debated in the Spanish and Argentine media on Tuesday, and prompted further speculation that Di Maria, who has made fewer appearances since the arrival of world-record signing Bale, might be sold either in this month’s transfer window or at the end of the season.
“I did not want to do anything toward either the supporters or the coach as was being claimed,” the 25-year-old was quoted as saying on Real’s Web site on Tuesday. “It was a natural gesture that any man does, and all the more so when he is running. You do it a lot on the pitch. On television you can see that it lasts a millisecond. It’s nothing. It’s not like I was doing it on purpose for an extended period of time.”
Di Maria said he was “in very good shape and very happy” at Real, and that coach Carlo Ancelotti had faith in him.
He added that he agreed with the club’s decision to launch an inquiry as it would help resolve the matter.
“I think it is right, not only for those who have opened the inquiry, but also for me, so I can explain the situation and what it [the gesture] was,” he said.