Why Was Lionel Messi Banned From the International Team for 3 Months?

Lionel Messi is one of the greatest soccer players of all time. That said, his Argentian national team recently lost during the Copa America tournament. The way in which it ended for Messi was controversial and led to him receiving a three-month ban from international play. It was another example of an otherwise amazing player struggling in internationally, a trend that has become all too common for Messi. 

Just what did Lionel Messi do to earn that three-month ban? 

Lionel Messi’s struggles in international play

He may be regarded as one of the world’s best, but Lionel Messi has had trouble while playing for Argentina in international competitions

Outside of a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Messi has yet to win a major international tournament with Argentina. He’s played with the national team since 2005. 

Messi’s scored more goals than any player in Argentina’s history with 67. He’s played in 130 international contests over four World Cups and four Copa Americas. Despite being Argentina’s best player over this time, he hasn’t helped the country win one of these tournaments. The nation hasn’t won a championship since the 1993 Copa America. 

Messi’s lack of big wins in international play presents quite a juxtaposition when compared to his play for Barcelona, which has been phenomenal.  

Potential retirement

Despite being 32 years old with 14 years of international play under his belt, a Reuters story on Messi said that retirement was a “long way off” for the star. Messi drew heat after Argentina failed performed poorly in the 2018 World Cup. Messi has yet to score a knockout round goal through all four of the World Cups he’s played in. 

Messi’s biggest regret seems to be the 2014 World Cup, where Argentina lost to Germany in the final game. Regarding the blown opportunities Argentina had to win, Messi had this to say: 

“Do you know the number of times I’ve replayed the final and the chances we had? It would have been so different if we’d scored one of them.”

Following the World Cup defeat, Messi took a break from soccer. Speculation from fans and media alike quickly turned to talk of retirement, but Messi returned for the Copa America tournament in 2019. That’s where he’d earn his current suspension. 

Why Lionel Messi was banned from the international team for three months

In a recent Copa America third-place match, Messi was ejected from Argentina’s 2-1 victory over Chile after receiving a red card. Messi would say that he felt “the cup was fixed for Brazil.” He added: 

“We don’t have to be part of this corruption…They have showed us a lack of respect throughout this tournament.”

Throwing around words like “corruption” and “fixed” are serious charges. Conmebol, the South American Football Confederation, took them seriously. The governing body suspended Messi from international play for three months while also levying a $50,000 fine. 

It’s impossible to prove whether Messi’s claim is true or not, especially since it’s so fraught with complications. But one telling statistic is that the red card the referee gave Messi was the international superstar’s first red in 14 years.

Clearly, Messi is not a player who lets his temper get the best of him too often. His being sent off during a critical match in such an important tournament does appear rather questionable. Messi is one of the most recognized athletes in the world. His words carry tremendous weight. Expect Conmebol to receive much more scrutiny going forward.