Many soccer fans will attest that Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of boots, but even he isn't safe from the punishments administered by the institutions that dictate the rules of the game.
BBC Sport reports that the superstar is in hot water with officials over some recent comments he made about CONMEBOL -- the South American soccer governing body -- and the "lackluster" way they handled the last Copa America tournament, in his words.
For speaking his mind, the Barcelona striker has been fined $50,000 and banned from playing international games for the next three months.
As noted by The New York Times, Messi was critical of several incidents involving the governing body during the tournament. His most notable outburst came after his country, Argentina, were denied two penalty claims in a semi-final loss against Chile.
The player accused also accused the body of Brazilian bias, and later stated that it's ruining the game for the supporters.
"Corruption and the referees are preventing people from enjoying the football, and they're ruining it a bit."The comments came after a controversial red card for Messi, which resulted in him being thrown off the field for the first time in his 14-year professional career thus far. Such behavior is out of character for the Argentinian, and there's been much debate as to whether he even deserved to be sent off in the first place ever since.
The three-month ban will only see Messi miss friendly matches against Chile, Mexico and Germany. He's expected to return for the 2022 World Cup Qualifier games, but the fact he's been banned in the first place is bound to start a wider conversation about corruption in soccer.CONMEBOL defended their decision to punish the player so harshly, claiming he violated rules pertaining to "offensive, insulting behavior or making defamatory protests," as well as "breaching the decisions, directives or orders of the judicial bodies."
The good news is that the ban only extends to international soccer. Fans of Messi can see him in action again later this month as the new La Liga season in Spain gets underway.
He'll be looking to continue the amazing form he demonstrated last year, which saw him end the season having scored 51 goals and provided 26 assists in 54 appearances for his club and country.
As long as he can keep quiet whenever he's bothered by official decisions, he'll likely have another incredible season.