Messi's behaviour is impeccable - Luis Enrique defends banned Barcelona star

By Dom Farrell 1 April 2017
Messi's behaviour is impeccable - Luis Enrique defends banned Barcelona star

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has defended Lionel Messi's conduct towards match officials after he was hit with a four-game ban from FIFA for abusing a linesman.

Messi scored the only goal from the penalty spot as Argentina beat Chile 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier last week but ended the match in dispute with the official.

FIFA studied video footage of an enraged Messi and handed down the ban on the day of Argentina's qualifier in Bolivia – Edgardo Bauza's men crashed to a 2-0 defeat in his absence to leave their hopes of reaching Russia 2018 in jeopardy.

The Argentinian Football Association have pledged to appeal the punishment and Luis Enrique expressed surprise, even though the five-time Ballon d'Or winner will serve a domestic suspension when Barcelona travel to Granada on Sunday having collected a fifth booking of the top-flight season last time out.

"It seems incredible to me," he told a news conference. "He has only been booked seven times [in all competitions] this season and, with Barcelona, he is super respectful to the referees.

"He is not very controversial, he is very respectful and he does not generate controversy. He has impeccable behaviour."

Argentina have won only one of their eight CONMEBOL qualifiers without Messi in the side but Luis Enrique feels Barca are not quite as reliant on their long-time talisman as he makes alternative plans for the trip to Los Carmenes.  

"In footballing terms, his absence does not affect anything because we will use the same system – all our players adapt to what we ask," he said.

"I would like to have Leo in all games but it is not possible. He can enjoy a rest – he is loaded with minutes and can rest."

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