Lionel Messi cut a frustrated figure after Barcelona’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night and reports in the Spanish media claim the Argentina forward was involved in a post-match altercation inside the players’ tunnel.
It’s been suggested that Messi called an unnamed City player an “imbecile” and then ran after him while shouting: “Come back here, don’t hide.”
The same reports claim Sergio Aguero, one of Messi’s closest friends in football, stepped in to play the role of peacemaker to prevent the situation from escalating any further.
Messi, who captained Barcelona in the absence of Andres Iniesta, isn’t known for causing trouble, instigating fights or losing his temper.
But purely on the basis of these surprising reports, it sounds like someone in the City ranks managed to agitate him at the Etihad.
Aguero explains what happened in the tunnel with Messi
Aguero, though, is keen to play down the rumours. He says that while he initially thought he heard Messi say something to him, he was wrong.
Moreover, Aguero saw nothing out of the ordinary happen involving his pal inside the tunnel.
“Nothing,” he was quoted as saying by the Independent when asked what he’d seen. “I thought Messi said something to me but he didn’t, and then we talked about other stuff.”
Aguero added that it was “nothing serious.”
“I heard something,” he continued, “but I don’t know what happened.”
Aguero: Messi was feeling bad
While the allegations involving Messi might be untrue - or exaggerated, at least - it’s patently clear that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner wasn’t in the mood for small talk after the match.
“I saw him there, he was feeling bad,” Aguero added. “I know him well enough to know when he’s bad, when he’s good. But when you lose, nobody’s good!”
The 28-year-old was also asked if he had joked with the Barcelona star about dispossessing him on a couple of occasions.
“No,” he replied, “because when one loses you have to respect.”
Aguero needs to keep Messi on side
It was probably for the best that Aguero didn’t wind up Messi last night; Argentina have two tough matches next week - against Brazil and Colombia - and defeat in either would leave their World Cup qualification hopes hanging by a thread.
Argentina need Messi at his untouchable best to help rescue the situation.