Real Madrid sporting director Jorge Valdano has offered his congratulations to Barcelona after his team were knocked out by Pep Guardiola's men at the semi-final stage of the Champions League.
His comments come in the aftermath of a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou, which followed last week's first-leg, won 2-0 by Barcelona in the Santiago Bernabeu for an overall 3-1 aggregate score in favour of the Spanish champions.
"It was an intense game, which was hard fought. Both teams were looking to qualify and Barcelona did it. Congratulations to the fans and all of Barcelona," he was quoted as saying by Eurosport after the match.
However, Valdano was less complimentary about the officials, whom he felt wrongly ruled out a first-half goal for Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain after a foul by Cristiano Ronaldo on Javier Mascherano.
"The referee [Frank De Bleeckere] made a crucial decision in disallowing the Higuain goal. The tie was level but we had the sending off in the first-leg and now the disallowed goal as well in the return. That is the simple reality," he mused.
"I think that Cristiano [Ronaldo] was knocked off balance by [Gerard] Pique and went down, the referee gave the advantage, and Cristiano fell on a Barcelona player. I didn't see him commit a foul... An error took place, we were penalised, and we were condemned."
Despite the setbacks, Valdano expressed his hope that the team would enjoy better times in the future as he looked to take the positives from the defeat.
"We hope to have more luck in the future. We don't encourage conspiracy theories but if you look at a game you need to have all the data that marked a game. It was a very close tie: the only imbalance occurred in Madrid, when the team was left with one fewer [player]," he continued.
"Real Madrid have a habit of fighting in every game and every competition. Real Madrid are still growing and we hope to continue doing so next season. The squad is very young and has room to improve."