In a surprise move, Barcelona star Lionel Messi has been suspended for four Argentina matches by FIFA on Tuesday for swearing at an assistant referee.
Messi was found guilty of “having directed insulting words at an assistant referee” in the World Cup qualifier against Chile last Thursday which Argentina won 1-0 thanks to a penalty from the Barcelona hitman.
Messi will miss Argentina’s next South American qualifying game against Bolivia, scheduled for later Tuesday, with the remainder of the suspension served over his country’s subsequent World Cup qualifiers.
He was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs (9,350 euros, $10,170), FIFA saying: “This decision is in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee’s previous rulings in similar cases.”
Argentina’s victory over Chile left them in third place overall in the 10-team South American qualifying competition for the World Cup with 22 points from 13 games.
The top four finishers qualify automatically for next year’s finals in Russia.