Messi Red Cards: Lionel Messi, one of the most decorated players in the history of soccer, is famous for his exceptional skill, goalscoring prowess, and creativity on the pitch. Having played for FC Barcelona for over 20 years before moving to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, Messi’s influence on the sport is far-reaching.

In contrast to many players of his caliber, Messi’s disciplinary record is impressively clean, particularly regarding the most severe sanction a player can receive on the pitch: a red card.

This article provides an in-depth analysis of Messi’s red card history throughout his professional career.

Three (3) Red Cards for Lionel Messi

Throughout his esteemed professional football career, global soccer icon Lionel Messi has been handed three red cards – a significant piece of trivia that underscores the intensity of his play. Messi’s debut red card was etched in football history in August 2005, during his first-ever international match for Argentina.

Five years later, while donning the Argentinian jersey again, Messi saw red in June 2019 during the South American football extravaganza, the Copa America. The hot-blooded nature of this prestigious tournament was enough to bring out Messi’s fiery side, a rare display from the usually calm maestro.

The third and most recent dismissal came in January 2021, marking a first for Messi at his long-time club, FC Barcelona. This incident was unusual in Messi’s otherwise unblemished club career, spanning more than a decade.

To make it even more compelling for Lionel Messi fans and football enthusiasts, it’s worth noting that these instances of disciplinary action are infrequent. They offer a glimpse into the passion and competitiveness that fuels Messi’s play, which has catapulted him to the pinnacle of world football.

The Start of Messi’s Professional Career: A Clean Record at Barcelona

Messi started his professional career at Barcelona in 2004, and his ability to avoid a straight red card throughout his entire time at the club is a testament to his fair play and discipline. Despite participating in high-stakes matches where tempers often flare, Messi managed to maintain a composed demeanor.

His only red card during his Barcelona tenure came from a double yellow, fundamentally different from a direct red card often issued for severe or dangerous behavior on the pitch.

Messi’s Red Cards

  1. Copa America 2019: Messi received his first red card playing for the Argentina National team during the Copa America 2019, in the third-place playoff match against Chile. An altercation with Chile’s Gary Medel led to both players receiving a red card. Many viewed this as controversial, as replays showed that Messi didn’t engage aggressively.
  2. Spanish Super Cup 2021: Messi’s only red card for Barcelona came in the Spanish Super Cup final 2021 against Athletic Bilbao. He was sent off in the game’s final minutes for an off-the-ball incident with Asier Villalibre. Despite this being his first sending-off in over 750 appearances for Barcelona, the incident had significant ramifications as Barcelona lost the match.

Messi’s Red Card Controversies

Given the relative scarcity of red cards in Messi’s career, each has resulted in considerable debate and controversy.

For instance, the red card in the Copa America 2019 drew significant criticism as many believed Messi was unfairly penalized. He was outspoken about his disappointment with the decision and even criticized the officiating and the tournament organization.

Similarly, some saw the red card in the Spanish Super Cup 2021 as harsh. Many pointed out that Messi’s action, although out of line, resulted from repeated fouls that the referee overlooked.

Final Remarks: Messi’s Fair Play and Sportsmanship

Despite these isolated incidents, Messi’s career is a model of sportsmanship. His playing style, characterized by skillful dribbling and a creative mindset, rarely involves aggressive or dangerous actions. His overall disciplinary record, with two red cards in a career spanning almost two decades, underscores this fact.

In soccer, where yellow and red cards often influence matches, Messi’s record is a testament to his discipline, respect for the game, and competitors. A crucial part of Messi’s legacy, beyond his numerous awards and records, will be this respect and fair play on the soccer pitch.


Lionel Messi’s red card history is a minuscule part of a glittering career filled with trophies, individual accolades, and memorable performances. Despite the occasional controversy, Messi’s overall disciplinary record is a shining example of fair play, discipline, and respect for the beautiful game.

His on-pitch conduct serves as a reminder that exceptional talent and sportsmanship can coexist, offering valuable lessons to aspiring soccer players worldwide.