Lionel Messi could be slapped with a ban of up to 12 games after he was sent off in the last minute of Barcelona’s Spanish Super Cup final defeat on Sunday night.
The Argentine received the first red card of his Barcelona career in the last minute of extra time for striking Athletic Bilbao forward Asier Villalibre around the head off the ball.
And if the Spanish FA deem that the incident was ‘aggressive’ when they review the incident, Messi faces a suspension anywhere between four and 12 matches.
That would rule the Barca captain out of a significant portion of the domestic season, with Ronald Koeman’s side third in the table and already seven points back on leaders Atletico Madrid – who have two games in hand.
If the Spanish FA conclude that it was not an ‘aggressive’ move, then Messi’s ban will be between just one and three games.
Messi lost his head as Koeman’s men hurtled towards another damaging defeat in their first final under the Dutchman’s leadership.
Barca had been leading until the final minute of normal time before Villalibre forced an extra half-an-hour.
The winner came three minutes into extra time when Iker Munian’s pass reached Inaki Williams and he wrapped his right foot around it curling it past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Koeman backed his star man on Sunday night, saying Messi’s frustration at being repeatedly fouled throughout the game unsurprisingly boiled over.
‘I can understand what Messi did,’ the Dutchman said after the match.
‘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.’
Questions were asked about whether Messi should even have started in the cup final, as he had missed the semi-final victory over Real Sociedad earlier in the week through injury.
Koeman, however, let Messi make the final decision on his fitness, and stood by his call.
‘I think after so many years at the top level, he knows when he can play and when he can’t,’ Koeman said. ‘I spoke with him and he said he was fit enough to start the game.’