We’ve seen Barcelona legend Lionel Messi lose his temper on the pitch on the odd occasion during his glittering career, but very rarely with his own teammates.
The vast majority of his teammates haven’t been anywhere near his level in terms of ability – barring the obvious stars like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Ronaldinho, Neymar and Luis Suarez – but the Argentine has always encouraged, rather than berated, his teammates when things aren’t quite going to plan.
However, there is one example of Messi losing his cool with a Barça teammate.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner enjoyed some incredible success alongside David Villa, one of the best strikers of his generation, but the Spaniard found himself on the wrong side of Barcelona’s star man during a La Liga fixture against Granada back in 2012.
After a frustrating opening 43 minutes, in which the deadlock remained unbroken, the Catalan outfit had a chance to create a goalscoring opportunity when Villa received the ball just inside the opponents’ box.
Messi found some space, signalled to Villa and made an excellent run in between the centre-backs but didn’t receive the ball from his teammate when he wanted.
When he did receive the ball, Messi’s touch was uncharacteristically poor and he took his frustration out on Villa.
The South American was seen angrily shouting at Villa to pass the ball earlier. His teammate looked shocked as if to say ‘what more could I have done in that situation?’
But Messi was in no mood for Villa’s explanation. His competitive spirit and win-at-all-costs mentality shone through that evening.
Watch the footage here…
Barcelona did eventually seal all three points that evening, although neither player got on the scoresheet.
Curiously, Villa was subbed off in the 53rd minute for Pedro. Xavi went on to score the opener in the 87th minute before a late Borja Gomez own goal made it 2-0 to the hosts at Camp Nou.
This would also prove to be Villa’s final season with Barça before he was sold to Atletico Madrid for just €5.1 million the following summer.
We’re not saying the two incidents are connected but it makes you think…
Messi quickly played down rumours of a bust-up with Villa after the match, telling reporters, per The 42: “Do not look for problems where there are none. Villa and I get along very well, it was just normal banter during games.”
Tito Vilanova, Barça’s head coach at the time, added: “Whoever plays football knows discussions are a normality, and part of the game.
“Such occurrences are common signs that a team is alive. Not exchanging views for betterment would honestly suggest worse.”
However, Spanish football expert Graham Hunter described Messi’s actions as “brutal” and revealed this wasn’t the first time the two had clashed.
“For what it’s worth I think Messi made a minor error in having a pop at Villa in that way,” Hunter was quoted as saying by 101 Great Goals.
“To me it’s not a biggie but given that Villa is just back after months out and cannot be at his sharpest it was a brutal call to lose temper over that. It would have taken an instinctive first time pass of the very highest order for any player to feed Messi’s run.
“The angle was on, Messi saw the opportunity but he’s a genius who’s not been out for close to a year. He and Villa have had their moments because Messi wants the ball all the time. What’s more, Villa has had to sacrifice a lot positionally.”
Hunter added: “These are the everyday clashes of a football training ground and occasionally a match. They happen. But so publicly in a match like this, given Villa’s first start since December I thought it was a little error of judgement.
“Like the fact that Villa gave it back. Messi said ‘Give me it first time, first time….’ Villa’s point was ‘you weren’t there for the first time ball.’
“They’ve had this discussion in private, often.”
Years later, Villa denied suggestions that his Barcelona exit was in part due to his relationship with Messi supposedly deteriorating.
“Nothing happened with Messi,” the Spaniard insisted, per 90 Min. “At the time it was said a lot, but the truth is that if I had continued being [a starter] I would have stayed at Barcelona.
“The truth is that I began to lose prominence. I was always on the bench and after much thought I told the team manager that I wanted to leave.”