FIFA have banned Lionel Messi for four matches after insulting assistant referee Dewson da Silva during Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile in World Cup qualifying.
The decision was taken surprisingly quickly ahead of the game between Bolivia and Argentina on Tuesday night, which Messi is now banned for.
He also misses clashes with Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru.
FIFA watched images of the match against Chile and published a statement reading “The FIFA Disciplinary Committee – in application of articles 77 a) and 108 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC) – has reached a decision in relation to the case of Lionel Messi following an incident that occurred during the match between Argentina and Chile on 23 March 2017 as part of the qualifying competition for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia: Lionel Messi has been found guilty of violating art. 57 of the FDC for having directed insulting words at an assistant referee.”
Dewson da Silva denied having heard any offensive language. “I didn’t see anything or see anything in relation to this.”
Argentina are planning on appealing the ban, according to national team secretary Jorge Miadosqui.
Miadosqui said: "We are surprised at the decision taken. We are very angry because of the way it was handled with hours to play.
"We are going to appeal the sanction. We believe that the sanction can be lowered. Messi is sad, which we all are here."