Barcelona defends Messi over 'unfair' suspension

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi's four-match international suspension for insulting a linesman was ''unfair and totally disproportionate.''

Barcelona released a statement Wednesday expressing ''its surprise and indignation'' with FIFA's decision to sideline the playmaker for so long following the incident in Argentina's win over Chile in World Cup qualifying last week.

The punishment was announced before Argentina lost at Bolivia 2-0 Tuesday, a result that left the two-time champions at risk of not qualifying for next year's World Cup in Russia.

Barcelona says it ''wishes to reiterate its support for Leo Messi, an exemplary player in terms of conduct both on and off the field.''

Pending an appeal, Messi will only be available to play in Argentina's final qualifier, on Oct. 10 against Ecuador.

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