Lionel Messi has been hit with a four game international suspension, just hours before Argentina take on Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier.
The Barcelona attacker will miss that clash with Bolivia after he was found to have verbally abused an assistant referee during Argentina’s narrow 1-0 victory over Chile last week.
Messi was caught on camera venting his fury at the assistant who signalled he had committed a foul late on in Argentina’s 1-0 win. He was not shown a card at the time.
The striker will now miss tonight’s game with Bolivia and while Argentina will expect to win without him, he will also be unavailable for their next game, a crunch encounter with Uruguay, who sit above Argentina in the qualifying table.
A statement from FIFA confirmed the ban and read: “Footballer Lionel Messi is considered guilty of having violated art. 57 of the CDF when pronouncing injurious words against an assistant referee.
“Consequently, player Lionel Messi is suspended for four official matches and a fine of 10 000 CHF is imposed. The first match in which the penalty will be applied will be the next meeting of the preliminary competition of the 2018 FIFA World Cup between Bolivia and Argentina, to be held on 28 March 2017.
“The rest of the sanction Must be fulfilled in the following matches of Argentina in the preliminary competition of the World Cup.
“This decision reflects the consistent case law that the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has been applying in previous cases in similar cases.”