Lionel Messi was issued with his marching orders for the first time in his club career after he was dismissed for taking a swing at Asier Villalibre during Barcelona’s Spanish Super Cup final defeat to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Messi was given a straight red card after he lashed out at Villalibre off the ball late into extra time in Barcelona’s 3-2 defeat against their La Liga rivals, the first such punishment of Messi’s 753 games in Barcelona colors.
The referee initially didn’t spot the incident but was quickly alerted to it by VAR, prompting him to send Messi back to the changing rooms – and dashing any faint hopes of a Barca comeback.
Messi’s red was the culmination of a remarkable collapse by Ronald Koeman’s team who had led twice through Antoine Griezmann but surrendered their lead each time – the second of which was a late equalizer from Villalibre, Messi’s soon-to-be sparring partner.
Inaki Williams scored what proved to be the winner early in extra time but the principal talking point was Messi’s late infraction, something which provoked a sizeable reaction from social media.
That was so stupid from Messi, 120th min, need a goal and he does that
— Riggers (@UniqueRiggers) January 17, 2021
Messi’s red card hit and the failure to clinch what would have been Koeman’s first silverware in charge of the Catalan club points to a wider malaise at the Camp Nou.
The European giants began the season in defensive mode, battling to extend Messi’s spell at the club after he made known his desire to leave the club he has represented for much of his life for pastures new.
The public rancor between Messi and his club contributed to Barcelona’s turgid opening to the season, and while it does appear as if the ship has been steadied somewhat, Barca remain rooted in third position in La Liga – some 7 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who can also boast two games in hand.
Messi’s on-field indiscretion could lead to a four-game ban, with Super Cup suspensions also carrying over to league fixtures per Spanish rules. While it was his first red in club football, Messi has been sent off twice for Argentina – first in his international debut against Hungary in 2005 and again 14 years later in the 2019 Copa America third-place playoff against Chile.