Lionel Messi’s first game back for Barcelona after his failed bid to engineer a transfer away from the La Liga giants was a hot-tempered affair, with the Argentine star lashing out against a particularly aggressive opponent.
Messi’s frustration boiled over on the pitch during his side’s 3-1 friendly victory against Gimnastic on Saturday, with the Barca captain taking considerable umbrage with the man-marking role of opponent Javier Ribelles.
Ribelles was tasked with minimizing the influence of the six-time Ballon d’Or winning playmaker. But, as far as Messi was concerned, this amounted to little more than him being targeted with an arsenal of kicks throughout the course of the match.
And some of the attention was particularly unwanted, as Ribelles described after the match.
“What are you doing, idiot? Do you want to stop kicking me, a**hole?” Ribelles recounted Messi saying to him at one point on the pitch.
Throughout the last decade or more, Messi has become one of the most creative influences ever seen in the sport – with Rebelles telling the media that he was acutely aware of the dangers that the Argentine can pose on the pitch.
As such, he says that he was forced to stick close to Messi throughout the game but says that his opponent wasn’t impressed by the unwanted attention.
“It was clear that Messi could not turn, because if he does and faces you it is very complicated. In one of those that he is going to receive from his back, I will give him everything, with his feet, his hands, with the chest.”
When Messi complained to him, Ribelles says that he offered a simple reply: “It’s that if you’re the best I have to kick you, I can’t let you turn because you’re going to beat me.”
Regardless of Ribelles’ marking job, Messi had the last laugh as his side wound up 3-1 winners with goals Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho – and the Gimnastic player says that his run-in with Messi may have cost him a very valuable piece of sporting memorabilia.
“[At the end of the game] I went to ask him for [his jersey], but I imagined he was going to be angry with me,” he said.
“In the end, Griezmann gave it to me, he was very kind to me. I have it here with me forever.”