Barcelona have leapt to Lionel Messi’s defence with a strongly-worded statement to FIFA after he picked up a four-match international suspension.
The Argentina captain incurred the ban for berating the linesman in last week’s 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Chile, but it was only announced hours before Tuesday’s match with Bolivia.
In his absence, Argentina went on to lose 2-0 in La Paz, putting their hopes of qualifying for next year’s tournament in jeopardy.
After news of the ban broke, Barca felt the need to speak up in support of their star player.
"FC Barcelona expresses its surprise and outrage at the actions of the Office of Disciplinary Committee of FIFA to sanction the player Leo Messi after the qualifying match of the FIFA World Cup between Argentina and Chile," said an official statement.
"The club considers the sanction of four games imposed against Messi unfair and totally disproportionate.
"Finally, FC Barcelona wishes to reiterate its support for Leo Messi, an exemplary athlete, for his behaviour on and off the pitch."