Jorge Valdano says Argentina captain Lionel Messi should have covered his mouth when he abused an assistant referee, an offence which earned a four-match suspension.
Messi launched a foul-mouthed rant at a linesman late in last week’s World Cup qualifier against Chile, in which he scored the only goal in an Argentina victory.
Initially, the incident was not included in referee Sandro Ricci’s report but was followed up by FIFA after video footage emerged, the 29-year-old then receiving a four-game ban hours before Tuesday’s qualifier against Bolivia, which his country went on to lose 2-0.
The Barcelona star will also miss games against Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru if Argentina’s appeal against the punishment is rejected.
Former Argentina international Valdano – who disagrees with the scale of the punishment – thinks players often cover their mouths to prevent cameras picking up on their words during mundane conversations, leaving him frustrated Messi did not do the same on this occasion.
“The first thing that surprised me was that Messi loses control – he never loses his tranquillity,” Valdano said in quotes reported by Marca.
“The second thing that baffles me is that players cover their mouths to say good morning and when they swear at the linesmen…they do not cover their mouths.
“Cesar Luis Menotti once said that when a player makes a mistake, they should not be forbidden to play but should do social work or something like that instead.”
Valdano thinks Argentina fans should now be worried about making it to Russia with Edgardo Bauza’s men sitting outside the four automatic qualification spots, with Messi only available for their final qualifier against Ecuador.
“The sanction of four matches is incredible and puts Argentina’s qualification campaign in danger,” Valdano said.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 29, 2017
Messi has been defended since receiving the punishment, Barcelona calling the ban “unfair and disproportionate”, with Gerard Pique branding it an “outrage”.
Argentina boss Bauza, meanwhile, lamented the timing of the suspension following the loss to Bolivia.
“What surprised us was the little time we were given to release a legal response,” he said.
“We had half an hour to send the first note. And after that, during the night hours, we stayed until four in the morning for the second note.
“It’s strange because FIFA gives you the possibility to deliver an opinion to anyone who can be sanctioned. Not only he couldn’t play, but we didn’t have time to work with anyone else.”
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