Lionel Messi Faces A Massive 12-Match Ban After Red Card For Hitting Opponent
Lionel Messi could be hit with a 12-match ban following his red card for violent conduct during Barcelona 2-3 Athletic Bilbao.
The six-time Ballon d'Or winner received the first sending off of his club career after striking Asier Villalibre on the back of his head on Sunday evening.
Barcelona lost the Spanish Super Cup final, but things could get a lot worse.
Marca have reported Messi faces a ban of up to 12 games if the Spanish FA deem it a suitable punishment.
If the 33-year-old's actions are thought to have been 'aggressive', then he'll be banned for between four and 12 matches.
Messi sees red for an off-the-ball swing. pic.twitter.com/PAW8cm95OR
- ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 17, 2021
But if not thought to be 'aggressive', the ban will be between one and three matches.
Messi took a swing at Bilbao forward Villalibre in the final moments of extra time and referee Jesus Gil Manzano chose to show a red after consulting VAR.
Manager Ronald Koeman defended his captain following the game and insisted his reaction was 'normal' after constant fouling.
"I can understand what Messi did," the Dutchman confessed per Daily Mail.
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"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."
Many wondered if Messi would be fit enough for Sunday's game, having missed the semi-final win over Real Sociedad with injury earlier in the week.
Koeman continued: "I think after so many years at the top level, he knows when he can play and when he can't. I spoke with him and he said he was fit enough to start the game."
The Blaugrana were hunting for their first trophy under Koeman and took the lead in the 40th minute through Antoine Griezmann.
It wouldn't last however as Oscar De Marcos equalised two minutes later.
Griezmann put Barca ahead again in the second half before a late strike from Villalibre took the game to extra time. Inaki Williams' stunning effort then gave Bilbao the win.
Koeman stressed after the game this was not a setback for his side.
"It's not a step backwards," he said per Football Espana.
"A title is convenient to show that you're on the right path, but we've still showed that we are. We've done everything to win, but we were very tired.
"For many players it will prove a good experience to have played in this final."
Featured Image Credit: ESPN
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