The usually unflappable Lionel Messi didn't quite seem to realise that Wednesday night's match between Barcelona and Roma was just a friendly.
Lionel Messi is not just one of the greatest footballers ever to have graced the game. He is also by general accounts an extremely humble, mild-mannered man who very rarely, if ever, loses his rag.
Where other great players often love to boast of their obvious talent in sometimes arrogant fashion (Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, we’re looking at you), the Barcelona hero has always been one who has preferred to let his feet on the pitch do the talking.
Because Messi is so great, he’s also had to get used to receiving some rough treatment from opposition players doing everything they can to stop the Argentine in his tracks. Rarely however does Messi seem to let this bother him, partly because he’s so good that he can skip and dribble his way past most of the flying challenges that come his way, but also because he is someone who knows how to keep his emotions in check, even in the most pressurised situations.
So you can imagine the shock and surprise encountered by everyone who watches football when they saw the great man respond rather angrily to something said to him by Roma’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa during a pre-season friendly on Wednesday.
Instead of just ignoring him, or saying something back, or anything else we might have expected from Messi, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner walked up to his taller opponent and headbutted him as well as grabbing his throat before the two players were separated.
Had it been a competitive match, Messi would have surely been shown a red card, something that has only happened to him once in his career (and that was a decade ago), but the question everyone is asking is what caused Messi to suddenly lose control? It was after all, only a friendly match.
Yanga-Mbiwa did admittedly lean his head in towards Messi just before the Argentine responded with his headbutt, and had appeared to be quite angry with Messi in the build-up the incident, but the Barca man has never usually been one to let that sort of thing bother him before.
Some forums have suggested that all the adulation Messi has received for so long has finally gone to the man’s head, but why now? Maybe there are personal issues in Messi’s life that we are not aware of, making him a little angrier than usual? Or maybe he was kept up late the previous night by baby son Thiago?
Of course, we could be overplaying all of this. Anyone, even the most unflappable of people, can occasionally lose their heads at odd moments, and Messi, for all his gifts, is still only human. This may be the very last time Messi reacts like this, but the question will nevertheless persist; what caused Messi to lose his cool after such an innocuous incident?