(Updates with Jesus comments)
LISBON, April 7 (Reuters) - Sporting president Bruno de Carvalho appeared to backtrack on his decision to suspend nearly the entire first-team squad on Saturday when coach Jorge Jesus said he had been told he could pick whoever he wanted for their next Primeira Liga match.
De Carvalho and the players were involved in a spat on social media following the 2-0 Europa League defeat away to Atletico Madrid on Thursday which resulted in the firebrand president announcing the suspensions on Facebook on Friday.
However, that post was later deleted and peace appeared to have been declared on Saturday although there was no comment from De Carvalho himself or the players.
“We had a meeting and what happened will remain inside those walls,” Jesus told reporters ahead of Sunday’s league match at home to Pacos de Ferreira. “The important thing is that the president gave me the freedom to pick the players I want... and I am going to pick all the players who are fit.”
The spat began when De Carvalho lambasted the team’s performance in Madrid, singling out defenders Sebastian Coates and Jeremy Mathieu for extra criticism.
On Friday, the club denied media reports that the players had refused to train in protest but shortly afterwards most of the first-team squad published a note repudiating De Carvalho’s comments.
“We always fight for our club, for our supporters and ourselves,” said the statement. “For this reason, we express in this message our displeasure at the public comments of our president after a game in which we did not get the result we wanted.”
The players also complained of “the lack of support from the one who is supposed to be our leader.”
“No matter what the situation, all such matters should be resolved within the group,” they added.
Portuguese media said that 19 first-team players had posted the message on their social media pages.
In reply, De Carvalho posted another Facebook message announcing their suspension. Screenshots of it were reproduced by Portuguese media although it was not on his Facebook page on Saturday.
“All the players who wrote the message below are suspended with immediate effect and will face the club’s disciplinary procedures,” said De Carvalho.
“I’m fed up with spoilt children who don’t represent anything or anyone,” he said. “This time, my patience has run out for those who think they are above the club and any sort of criticism.”
Sporting are fourth in the league standings, six points behind leaders Benfica. (Additional reporting by Miguel Perreira; Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Clare Fallon and Christian Radnedge)