Football fans have accused the La Liga authorities of letting Lionel Messi off lightly after the Barcelona star was given a two-match ban for lashing out during his team’s Spanish Super Cup defeat against Athletic Bilbao.
In the dying seconds of extra-time and with Barcelona trailing 3-2 in Sunday’s clash, Messi took a swipe at Athletic’s Asier Villalibre when he blocked the Argentine star’s path.
Messi was sent off after a VAR by referee Jesus Gil Manzano – the first time the Barcelona number 10 had ever been giving his marching orders in 753 appearances for the club.
Reports had differed over the length of ban Messi was facing for the violent outburst, with some claiming a four-match sanction would be applied and others somewhat outlandishly suggesting he could be sanctioned for 12 matches if the incident was deemed particularly serious.
In the end, it was announced on Tuesday that theSpanish Football Federation’s Competition Committee had slapped a two-match ban on the star.
According to Marca, that was because match official Manzano had not mentioned the incident as a sign of aggression in his report.
“In the 120th minute, player (10) Messi Cuccittini, Lionel Andres was sent off for the following reason: Hitting an opponent with his arm using excessive force while the ball was in play but not within playing distance,” the referee wrote.
The decision did not go down well with rival fans on social media, who claimed the six-time Ballon d’Or winner had been treated favorably due to his megastar status in the league.
One fan claimed two matches was too little and that a four-game ban would have been appropriate.
Some branded Messi “La Liga’s golden boy” and demanded a somewhat implausible 10-game suspension.
La ligas golden boy. Should be at least 10 game suspension
— #7 (@MarkAshiey23) January 19, 2021
Only 2 games? 4 games should be the minimum, but it’s Messi so he will obviously be protected by the league
— Southie 🇵🇱 (@RealSouthie) January 19, 2021
Others defended the 33-year-old star, claiming the incident looked far worse than it actually was.
To all the clowns saying ban him for 4, just go and watch the clips from other angles.
— Akshat Singhal (@akshat_one) January 19, 2021
The ban certainly appeared to be too much for Barcelona, who have said they will appeal the suspension.
If it does stand, the sanction means Messi will miss the Catalans’ next two fixtures, against Cornella in the Copa del Rey and Elche in LaLiga Santander.
By a twist of circumstance, he will be free to return for Barcelona’s game against Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on January 31.
Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona team are currently third in the La Liga standings, three points adrift of Real Madrid in second and seven behind leaders Atletico Madrid – who have two games in hand on both their rivals.