Eden Hazard was today facing an extended ban for kicking out at a ball boy after the Football Association charged him over his sending off in Chelsea’s Capital One Cup exit at Swansea.
Hazard was already set to serve an automatic three-match suspension for his red card in Wednesday night’s semi-final second leg at the Liberty Stadium.
But the FA deemed that “insufficient” punishment for the offence, prompting an additional charge this afternoon.
They said in a statement: “The FA have charged Chelsea’s Eden Hazard following his side’s League Cup semi-final at Swansea City on January 23, 2013.
“It is alleged that Hazard’s behaviour in relation to a Swansea City ball boy, for which the player was dismissed in the 78th minute, constituted violent conduct whereby the standard punishment that would otherwise apply was clearly insufficient.
“The player has until 6pm on Tuesday 29 January 2013 to respond to the charge.”
Chelsea were today considering their response after learning Hazard would not face separate criminal action.
South Wales Police announced they had dropped their investigation into the incident, posting on Twitter: “We can confirm there is no longer any police involvement in this matter.”
The police launched a probe after receiving three calls from members of the public living in Sussex, Kent and west Wales over the actions that led to Hazard’s dismissal by referee Chris Foy in the closing stages of Wednesday night’s game.
The Belgian lost patience when Swansea ball boy Charlie Morgan refused to hand over the ball after it had gone out for a goal-kick.
Morgan fell to the ground as Hazard attempted to get the ball from him, with the 22-year-old then kicking it from under him.
Morgan reacted as if he had been caught in the ribs but the 17-year-old insisted he had no intention of pressing charges.
Swansea chairman Hugh Jenkins hit out at continued police involvement, telling Sky Sports News: “Things are done in the heat of the moment and probably everybody looks back and wishes things had been done differently. We accept how things are and all move forward.”
Speaking before the FA charged Hazard, Jenkins called for the matter to be dropped entirely.
“That would be my personal feeling, but I can’t control what others are going to do.
“Speaking on behalf of the club, it’s something we’d quickly like to forget.”
Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez refused to be drawn on any aspect of the ball-boy saga or its implications.
The Spaniard deployed the same bizarre evasion tactics used in a press conference earlier this week, saying: “We have two windows: one for football and one for the other issues.”
He said Hazard had trained “normally” since the incident and that any disciplinary action taken against him by the club was an “internal” matter.
After repeated probing, Chelsea’s head of communications eventually intervened, saying: “The club, on the evening, recognised the seriousness of the incident. The player recognised that he was wrong to react in that way.
“The appropriate apologies were made, and the club made every effort to make those happen.”
Reaction elsewhere showed no sign of abating, with QPR manager Harry Redknapp scathing, branding the ball boys’ actions “disgusting”.
He said: “You’re a player trying to reach a cup final but there’s this kid behaving like an idiot who won’t give you the ball back.
“Hazard didn’t kick the kid, he kicked the ball underneath him, but the whole thing got blown out of all proportion.
“I can think of a lot of players who would have kicked a bit harder than he did.
“The boy was tweeting before the game that he’s a super time-waster. The way he behaved was disgusting.”
Morgan himself briefly broke his silence last night, tweeting: “Crazy 24 hours. Spoke to Hazard and I will not be pressing charges.”
It also emerged Morgan was no mere ball boy but the son of millionaire Swansea director Martin Morgan.
Former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers spoke up for Morgan and suggested any possible time-wasting was “nothing sinister”.
Rodgers, who spent two years at the Liberty Stadium before moving to Liverpool last summer, joked: “I know Charlie well. He used to do it great for me! He was taught well!
“He is a good boy is the kid. He loves his club and he loves his football.”
He added: “Don’t get me wrong, ball boys are well tuned in to what is required in the game.
“There was maybe a wee bit of gamesmanship by Charlie but certainly nothing sinister.
“I think any manager, player, coach would be happy if their ball boy did that.”