Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has been handed a two-match ban, following the player’s red card against Athletic in the Spanish Super Cup.
The ban will mean that Ronald Koeman’s side will be without their star forward for Thursday’s Copa del Rey clash against second-tier opposition Cornella, as well as the Catalan club’s league match against Elche on Sunday.
The Argentine forward seemed to lash out at Athletic player Asier Villalibre during the match and was shown a red card for his off-the-ball attack.
According to referee Jesus Gil Manzano, “Messi hit an opponent with his arm using excessive force while the ball was in play but not at a distance from being played.”
The usual penalty for such an action is a four-match ban, but the committee decided that Messi had lashed out because the opposing player was intentionally obstructing him from taking part in Barcelona’s attack.
It remains to be seen whether Barcelona appeals the decision or are happy to accept the two-match ban as it stands.
Speaking after the match head coach Ronald Koeman backed his star man, saying that the reaction was understandable after the physical treatment he had received throughout the game.
“I can understand what Messi did,” he said.
“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.”