Lionel Messi saw red – quite literally – during the latter stages of Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao.
The 33-year-old hit out at Asier Villalibre in the 120th minute of the match as Barça attacked in search of a late equaliser.
Referee Jesus Gil Manzano didn’t see the incident first-hand but reviewed it on the pitch-side monitor after the VAR room advised him to take a look.
After watching the footage of Messi hitting his opponent, the match official was left with no option but to send the superstar off.
This was the first red card of Messi’s club career. He has been sent off on two previous occasions, but both came in international matches with Argentina (against Hungary in 2005 and Chile in 2019).
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner can have absolutely no complaints with the decision.
It may have been out of character, but it was a clear and deserved red card.
These zoomed-in replays show the severity of the incident. What on earth was he thinking?
Messi’s moment of madness will now lead to a ban – and it could be a lengthy one, too.
If Manzano describes the incident as a serious offence in his report, which seems almost certain, Article 98 of Spanish football’s Disciplinary Code states that the player will face a ban of between four and 12 – yes, twelve – matches.
This is according to Spanish newspaper Marca, who understand that a four-game suspension is the most likely outcome.
However, a 12-match ban *is* possible depending on how serious the RFEF deem Messi’s conduct.
El Chiringuito’s Juanfe Sanz posted the same information via Twitter on Sunday evening.
Article 56.8 of the rules then explains that suspensions picked up in the Spanish Super Cup will carry on to the next domestic matches, which means Messi is set to miss Barcelona’s Copa del Rey fixture against Cornella and then one more Copa fixture if the Catalan outfit progress.
If Barça lose, though, Messi would be banned for at least three La Liga matches.
“It seemed to me a clear aggression from Messi,” Villalibre told reporters, per Rik Sharma, after the match. “I put my body in the way, he got mad and he hit me in the face with his hand.”
Messi, who was unable to prevent his side slumping to a 3-2 defeat in Seville, now faces an anxious wait before finding out how much football he’ll miss over the coming weeks.