Argentina's Lionel Messi, second left, argues with Uruguay's Mathias Olivera, during a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup 2026 at La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.

10 times Lionel Messi was football’s biggest bad boy: Red cards, feuds…

Despite his consistent showings of superhuman abilities through the years, Lionel Messi remains a mere mortal and, like the rest of us, isn’t perfect after all.

For a man that is heralded as a God-like figure in the footballing world, you’d think he can do no wrong. But he can. There’s a secret dark side to Messi.

He’s the John Cena of football; insanely talented, incredibly famous, won everything there is to win, and just too good. Which makes it all the more intriguing to see what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot, and he became the villain.

First Barcelona red card

This one felt like the straight-A student getting a detention for the first time. You simply couldn’t comprehend it, and neither could they.

After 520 games, Messi was shown his first and only red card for Barcelona in 2021 against Athletic Bilbao in the Supercup final.

With Barca losing in extra time, Messi charged down the field but was bumped by Asier Villalibre. Unhappy with the incident as the bump occurred after he passed the ball, Messi hit out and slyly launched a flailing arm his way, which saw him receive a straight red card. Very naughty.

Feud with Wout Weghorst

Think the John Cena reference early on was the only wrestling parallel here? Think again, because this was a textbook WWE Raw segment.

Tensions boiled over between Messi and resident man mountain Wout Weghorst on the pitch during the 2022 World Cup quarter-final, but after Argentina booked their spot in the last four, it didn’t stop.

Messi was conducting a post-match interview before breaking away from the chat, looking behind the camera and locking onto Weghorst, before saying: “What are you looking at, bobo [fool]?”

Classic heel work from Messi, really leaning into the role and setting up the perfect little vs large match for the upcoming monthly pay-per-view.

Feud with Louis van Gaal

While the beef with Weghorst emerged at the 2022 World Cup, Messi’s tension with Louis van Gaal goes back to 2014 and appears to rear its head whenever the pair are near each other.

After Van Gaal was critical of Messi at the 2014 World Cup, the Argentine seemed to carry that grudge into Qatar and argued with him at full-time of the quarter-final.

That was after he’d scored the opening goal of the game and proceeded to celebrate by running over to Van Gaal and cupping his ears directly in front of him.

For a typically reserved man, it made for some spectacular viewing.

Guilty of tax fraud

On a more serious note, Messi and his father Jorge were found guilty of tax fraud in 2016 following the Panama Papers data leaks in the years prior.

Both were issued a 21-month suspended prison sentence and fined €1.7 million and €1.4 million respectively.

No longer the crowd pleaser

Watching the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner strut his stuff in person is enough to leave your jaw permanently detached from the rest of your face, but that star power appears to have faded in Paris.

Messi and his PSG teammates were whistled off the field after losing 1-0 at home to Lyon in April 2023, but instead of acknowledging the fans in even the smallest way, the Argentine headed straight down the tunnel without question.

Not a good look after losing a key game, especially with all the uncertainty around his future.

Mocking Mexico during World Cup

Sort of.

Footage from Argentina’s dressing room surfaced, showing the celebrations after they beat Mexico at the World Cup last November.

What it also showed was a jubilant Messi, topless and swinging his shirt around, while using his foot to ‘kick’ a Mexico shirt out of the way that had been swapped after the game.

The video clip prompted an incensed response from none other than Canelo Alvarez, who took to Twitter to say Messi better ‘pray to God’ that he doesn’t encounter him, before backtracking on the statement.

Messi clarified that he meant no disrespect by it, although we doubt he was particularly that bothered in the moment. Mad man.

His ‘deplorable’ attitude at Barcelona

Eric Olhats, a former advisor to Antoine Griezmann, dropped a bombshell interview in 2020 speaking on behalf of the French forward, criticising Messi’s attitude around Barcelona and accusing him of having too much involvement at the club.

“He’s at the same time emperor and monarch, and he didn’t see Antoine’s arrival with a good eye,” Olhats told France Football.

“His attitude has been deplorable, he made him feel that. I’ve always heard Antoine say there’s no problem with Messi, but never the other way around.”

It was a rather shocking account of the greatest footballer ever in the eyes of many, and a man whose personality in the media was far too quiet to suggest that.

Definitely got it in him, though. We all would if we were that good at football. Hell, I’d be insufferable to the point of no return.

Olhats then strangely came out backtracking on the story a few years later, but the damage was already done. You’ve said it now, Eric, so what is it?

Dishing out headbutts in friendly matches

Another one completely out of character, Messi was booked during a friendly against Roma in 2015 for retaliating to Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa losing his temper and leaning his head into the Argentine.

Messi, not amused in the slightest, unleashed the dawg in him and directed his head towards Mapou, before then grabbing him by the throat. Shock and horror. What’s happened to our GOAT? He’s become a man possessed. It’s only a friendly, Lionel. Let him be.

Looking back, the catalyst could’ve been that horizontally striped Barcelona kit he had to wear. Absolute eyesore. It’s getting me angry just looking at it.

Trip to Saudi Arabia

Messi was suspended by PSG for an unauthorised promotional trip to Saudi Arabia during his final weeks with the club.

You imagine that a player of his stature might have got away with it, but PSG were reportedly looking for retribution after he snubbed their contract renewal offer.

“Hello, I wanted to make this video about what is happening. First of all, ask for forgiveness from my teammates and the club,” he responded in an apology video posted on his Instagram page.

“Honestly, I thought we were going to have an off day as it had been the case in the weeks prior.

“I had this trip to [Saudi] Arabia organised, which I had cancelled before, and this time I couldn’t cancel. Again, ask for forgiveness from what I did and I will be waiting for whatever the club decides. Hugs.”

Uruguay spat

There’s never any love lost when neighbours Argentina and Uruguay meet, and their latest clash at La Bombanera was a typically feisty affair.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguay came away with a 2-0 victory, all the while rattling Messi’s cage. The Argentina captain was in the throng of the action midway through the first half and could be seen grabbing Mathias Olivera by the throat.

“I prefer not to say what I think about some gestures. But these young people have to learn to respect from their elders,” Messi said after the match.

“This game was always intense and hard but always with a lot of respect. They have to learn a little bit”.

READ NEXT: Five of Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi’s feistiest El Clasico clashes

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Barcelona’s top 20 goalscorers in La Liga since 2000?