Argentina's Lionel Messi has bizarrely suggested that corruption was at play in a furious rant following his sending off against Chile in the Copa America third-place playoff.
The Barcelona star's side won 2-1 thanks to strikes from Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala, but most of the match was played ten vs ten after both Messi and Gary Medel saw red for a first-half scuffle - with Messi's in particular perceived to have been soft.
It was just the second red card in the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's career, and came after he alleged that their 2-0 semi-final defeat to Brazil three days earlier had been fixed to allow for the hosts' passage to the final.
For those saying: “Messi did foul cause frustrated for not winning any international trophy”, no link imho.— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) July 6, 2019
Messi and Medel have a long history together. Medel was whom marked him and erased him in two Copa America finals.
Once kicked him in the chest. Messi taking his revenge
"There was lack of respect toward us during this Copa America," he said, as quoted by CBC. "We could have done better, but they didn't let us make it to the final.
"Corruption and the referees are not letting the fans enjoy football. This is ruining football.
"Maybe what I said last time played a part today. A yellow card should have been enough for both players."
Governing body CONMEBOL wasted no time in responding to the allegations, issuing a statement on social media: “In football sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and accepting the outcome of a match with loyalty and respect is a fundamental pillar of fair play. Same goes to the refereeing decisions, that are human and will never be perfect.
“It’s unacceptable that because of incidents proper to the competitions, where 12 Nations competed in, all in equal condition, there have been unfounded accusations that misrepresent the truth and put to judgement the integrity of Copa America.
“Said accusations represent a lack of respect for the competition, all the football players involved and the hundreds of professionals of CONMEBOL, an institution that since 2016 has been tirelessly working to transparent, professionalise and develop South American football,”