Over his 17-year stay at Camp Nou, Lionel Messi has won countless trophies and awards, but what the Argentine has never done is to be sent off the pitch. True, the striker has received two red cards while playing for the Argentine national football team, but his behaviour in Barcelona was impeccable. Well, that was until yesterday, 17 January, when Barcelona faced Athletic Bilbao. Towards the end of the game, the 33-year-old took it out on Asier Villalibre.
Naturally, the news of his suspension caused a stir on social media.
Messi is so dirty. Red card. Imagine if this was Ronaldo. pic.twitter.com/UfhBQBKNze— ❄️🇨🇦 ³⁴ (@DrTahha) January 17, 2021
While some netizens criticised the athlete’s behavior…
Over the years all these and no red card, he got his first just last night SMH.— Pogllins 🌍 (@Pog_llins) January 18, 2021
Filipe Luis once said, "Messi is protected by league and media."
Hes been soo bad for such a long time now.— keem (@kal3xx) January 17, 2021
…others defended the striker and pointed to the fact that he has constantly been fouled on.
To be honest the amount of times hes fouled and taken out I'm surprised this is his first red 😲 Messi must have a good temperament, perhaps he'd just had enough... after so many games it's an amazing stat under the circumstances.— Peter Lelliott (@peterlell) January 18, 2021
Messi was given a red card for the first time in his Barcelona career and many people will not allow the dude and his fans to rest. Isn’t he human too? Oh well, I understand he has set a very high standard that many don’t see him as human again. Keep wailing guys!— Jeff George ™ (@jhon_O_day) January 18, 2021
The referee made a mistake at the beginning by showing the red card to Jordi Alba instead of Messi. Many users joked that he was too afraid to send off the Argentine star and said that the referee should have shown the red card in another episode.
Why is this not a RED CARD? De Jong fucking took a hit at his face.— MzBarca (@MzBarca1) January 17, 2021
Messi deserved that red card though pic.twitter.com/dSyvHhh7XO
The referee is afraid to go show Messi the red card instead he goes to Alba,yho!— MENE MENE (@_Bongani__) January 18, 2021
Many contended that Barcelona would be better off without Messi and blasted the Argentine for what they described as zero-impact.
Well deserved 💥— Liberal Bhakt (@sensibleone123) January 18, 2021
Barca shud also show messi red card now!!!
Team will be better without him
Other users said that the era of great players is coming to an end.
Let's stop the banters and hate and see this for ourselves. The era Greatest players in the history of football is coming to an end. Cristiano Ronaldo losing terribly with his team and Messi been shown a red card. Is all coming to an end 💔 pic.twitter.com/nvyL01wLJH— Martial🇬🇭🇳🇬 (@adawen14) January 17, 2021
Still others joked that Messi plans to continue his career as a mixed martial arts fighter and that the striker intentionally got a red card to deflect attention from Barcelona’s poor performance.
The GOAT proves himself in MMA as well😎 pic.twitter.com/DSB6ZecZ23— Papa Perez👑💸 (@PapaVARez) January 17, 2021
Messi getting red card so no one going to talk about the match. My Captain My Leader pic.twitter.com/HDO0IFqTMt— Barca Era (@BarcaEra1) January 17, 2021
Barcelona’s manager Ronald Koeman said he understands Messi’s actions and emphasised that despite the defeat, the club is making progress.
"I can understand what Messi did. I don't know how many times they fouled him, and it's normal to react when they keep trying to foul you as a player who is looking to dribble with the ball, but I need to see it again properly. We're sad and disappointed but I still think we're on the right path and we're improving", Koeman said.
According to reports, Messi may end up with a four-game ban after his angry outburst. The Royal Spanish Football Federation's competition committee will convene this week to decide on the Argentine’s future. If suspended, he will miss a match in the Copa Del Rey and important games in La Liga.