Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola urged referees to “protect” players after Leroy Sane was injured during the FA Cup win at Cardiff City.
Guardiola’s side eased to a 2-0 win over the Championship club to reach the fifth round as Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling struck.
But Guardiola confirmed Sane could miss up to a month after Joe Bennett’s foul.
“For football in general players are the artists. The only thing they can do is protect them,” said Guardiola.
“Referees have to protect – not just mine, all players. Sane will be out for a while. Maybe two or three weeks, or a month, we will see tomorrow. It’s his ankle.
“I know my players, because it’s not just one, there was many. They decided to play in that way. There is one man who has to decide what is correct and what is incorrect. If he doesn’t anything can happen.”
Later on Sunday, Bennett apologised for the tackle with a statement on social media.
“Just want to apologise to Leroy Sane for my tackle today,” he said. “I tried to stop the counter-attack and completely mistimed my attempt.
“I didn’t mean to catch him like I did. I hope it’s nothing serious and he recovers quickly.”
Sane could miss Premier League games against West Bromwich Albion, Burnley and Leicester, and is now a doubt for City’s Champions League last-16 first-leg in Basel on 13 February.
The foul on Sane arrived late in the first half, when the Germany international ran at pace from his own half to almost reach the Cardiff penalty area.
At first glance, the impact of Bennett’s challenge was not clear but television replays showed the severity of the tackle, which forced Sane off at half-time.
Bennett was later sent off for a second yellow card after a challenge on Brahim Diaz but his foul on Sane drew scrutiny, with Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer describing it as “nasty and high”, and BBC Radio 5 live’s Robbie Savage labelling the tackle “terrible”.
Germany’s official Twitter account contacted Cardiff shortly after the foul, urging Neil Warnock’s side not to “hurt” their international players – though the tweet was later deleted. In all, the Bluebirds committed 14 fouls in the 90 minutes, two more than the Premier League leaders.