Leonardo banned for nine months
Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo has been handed a nine-month ban and the Ligue 1 champions given a suspended three-point deduction after the Brazilian was found to have barged into a referee.
After a hearing of the French Football League's Disciplinary Commission in Paris on Thursday evening, Leonardo, 43, was found guilty of shoulder-charging referee Alexandre Castro shortly after the final whistle of PSG's 1-1 draw at home to Valenciennes on May 5.
The suspension means the former PSG and AC Milan player is barred from the dug-out and the referee's dressing room as well as being forbidden to carry out any official functions on matchday, and casts further uncertainty over the coaching position at the club. The ban will be backdated to May 8, when he was first suspended.
The potential points deduction for PSG will apply to the 2013-14 season. "In the case of a major transgression committed by a club official, the disciplinary regulations allow for a points deduction," Pascal Garibian, the Commission president, stated. "It will only be applied if, in the future, an official commits an equivalent fault."
Within two hours of the verdict being made public, a PSG press release confirmed the club would appeal against the decision.
"Given the elements presented to the members of the Disciplinary Commission, the club considers this decision without foundation and extremely harsh," the statement read. "Consequently, Paris Saint-Germain, which is totally behind its sporting director, has decided to appeal against this decision."
With Carlo Ancelotti having requested to be freed from the final year of his contract, Leonardo had been tipped as an interim solution for a season before Arsene Wenger could be tempted to end his Arsenal tenure after the expiration of his current deal and take over at the Parc des Princes.
L'Equipe on Thursday speculated that in the case of a long ban for Leonardo, he could be relieved of his duties and Ancelotti given both the coaching and sporting director role at the club.
Leonardo was reportedly infuriated by the red card Castro had shown to PSG captain Thiago Silva shortly before half-time. Canal+ cameras intially caught the incident in which Leonardo collided with Castro, who was making his way to his dressing room, before being pulled away and calmed by PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
The 1994 World Cup winner had arrived to give his version of events to the commission at 18.30 CET, and spoke to the media when he left two hours later. "I'm happy to have been listened to. I retold what I had experienced. Now, I'm calmly waiting for the decision," he said. "We had things to say. That's why I'm happy to have been able to explain myself, to have given my view of that. I think that's important."
Leonardo had claimed that one of the match delegates had pushed him into Castro, and insisted pictures taken by internal cameras at the Parc des Princes, as opposed to the images from Canal+, would clear his name.
"The images from the internal circuit show that the collision is voluntary. All of the officials, and not just Mr Castro, say it was voluntary and not involuntary," Patrick Anton, Castro's lawyer, had stated. "The first reaction when you bump into someone by accident is to apologise and not to leave grumbling as Leonardo did that evening.
"The images we saw don't contradict those broadcast. His attitude has been quite classy while he has denied the facts. He argued his past was in his favour, and that as a player and a coach he had never had excessive attitudes. The problem is that you can be a gentleman and still explode."