How Many Red Cards Does Messi Have?

If you ask anyone who follows football who the greatest player of all time is, they’ll probably tell you that it is Lionel Messi. And you really can’t argue with that deduction, he is one of the most impressive, important, and influential players to have ever existed. 

And as the player’s career draws to a conclusion, I couldn’t think of a more fitting farewell than that of him lifting the trophy during his last time playing for Argentina in the 2022 World Cup.

How Many Red Cards Does Messi Have?

I think that fans across the world will all agree, that despite perhaps their own teams losing, there was something particularly poignant, and well-deserved, about that moment. 

And what a legacy the player is sure to leave behind. Fans across the globe watch the fantastic players dribbling and goal-scoring ability with absolute awe.

It will certainly be something that is missed when his football top is hung up for that final time. He has won the Ballon d’Or a whopping 7 times and has scored a massive 692 goals over 841 matches. Pretty impressive stats. 

But what about the times that he played perhaps not at his best, or at least not legally in accordance with the rules? Players tend to be fairly familiar with that warning yellow card, but the dreaded red is something they always hope to avoid.

Let’s find out just how many times best-player-in-the-world Lionel Messi has been sent off the pitch after receiving a red card. 

How Many Times Has Lionel Messi Been Red-Carded? 

Despite a long career, Messi has only ever been red-carded three times during his entirety of playing football. Now, considering he’s played close to 1000 matches in his career, this is pretty impressive and highlights perfectly his dedication and self-discipline in the game. 

Messi was red-carded twice during his time with Argentine and then received his final red card during his time with FC Barcelona. However, despite there being very few examples of Messi being forced off the pitch, each time caused quite the commotion. 

In fact, each time the famous player has been red carded it has always made the world news. So, let’s remind ourselves of those 3 major moments where Messi was given his marching orders. 

1. The First Red Card

Cast your minds way back to 2005. On August the 15th a young (only 18 years old) Messi debuted for Argentina for his very first cap. He was sent onto the field in the 63rd minute during a friendly against Hungary. 

It didn’t take long for the talented footballer to get his first touch on the ball. Just two minutes to be exact. But it didn’t take long for things to take a turn for the worst. Defender Vilmos Vanczak, playing for Hungary, pulled on the superstar’s shirt.  

He quickly retaliated to reestablish his dominance on the field by throwing an elbow Vanczak’s way. This resulted in Messi being quickly escorted off the pitch, with his name in the book. The dreaded Red. 

It wasn’t taken lightly by the disciplined footballer either. There were reports that the young Argentine player was found devastated and weeping in the locker room after the match. 

How Many Red Cards Does Messi Have?

2. The Second Red Card

The player had clearly learned from his mistakes because it took another fourteen years before he would receive his next red card. This happened in the 2019 Copa America against Chile during the third-place match of the Brazilian tournament. 

It was during the 32nd minute of the first half of the match that the tensions started to rise. Messi and Chile’s player Gary Medel got into a bit of a…scuffle. 

Here’s how it played out. Messi was chasing after a ball that was painfully close to the Chilean penalty box when Medel roughly chested Messi in a play to retrieve the ball.

This obviously didn’t go down too well and the two players got into quite the heated chest-off which then turned into a verbal altercation with no signs of the tension dissipating. 

As a result, both players were red-carded and immediately sent off the pitch. For Messi, though, there was still a happy ending as Argentina went on to win the match 2-1. 

3. The Third And Final Red Card

Messi’s final red card would come while his time playing for Barcelona was drawing to a close. The red card he received during the Spanish Supercup final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao would be his very first for the Catalan team. 

It was a pretty exciting final where an equalizing goal for Bilbao would come in the 90th minute of the match. During extra time, Barcelona would soon find themselves losing 3-2 to their opposing team. 

In the 118th minute of extra time, Messi came speeding down the midfield at an impressive speed with all-consuming determination. It would be at this time that Athletic Bilbao striker Asier Villalibre would bump into him. 

Messi responded by hitting the striker over the head which resulted in him falling to the ground where play had to be stopped. For obvious reasons, Messi was quickly shown the red card and was sent off the pitch. 

This particular suspension was probably quite painful for the player as it meant that we would have to miss the Copa Del Ray match against the Cornella team. 

Final Thoughts

Messi’s talent is obvious and undeniable, it only takes a quick look at his match statistics to see. And even in his misdemeanors, his stats are incredibly impressive. The player has only ever three red cards within his entire career. 

And when you take a look at how and why they have happened, it only seems to be a response to rough and forceful play from the opposing teams. One thing is for sure though, each and every time he was sent off the pitch his presence was missed. 

And it will continue to be missed for years to come as the play enters retirement (see also ‘What Age Do Soccer Players Retire?‘).

Adrian Turner
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