During the World Cup 2026 qualifiers, in a match against Uruguay, Argentina’s captain Lionel Messi grabbed the collar of defender Mathias Olivera during a scuffle that occurred after a foul. In the 19th minute, home midfielder Nicolas Gonzalez fell to the ground after being hit in the face by a Uruguayan player. The Argentine players reacted, but referee Wilmar Roldan did not award a foul, allowing play to continue while Gonzalez lay on the field. The away team also did not kick the ball out of play and continued with midfielder Maximiliano Araujo dribbling, which angered the home players who rushed in to commit fouls from behind Araujo. After this incident, players from both teams got involved in a scuffle. Home midfielder Rodrigo de Paul aggressively pushed Manuel Ugarte, followed by defender Olivera doing the same to De Paul. Messi also ran towards the commotion, grabbing Olivera’s collar and pushing him away. It was only then that referee Roldan intervened, telling Olivera to “stop.”
During the South American World Cup 2026 qualifiers, Argentina faced Uruguay at La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires on November 16, 2023. In this match, Messi grabbed the neck of defender Mathias Olivera after a scuffle. Despite this incident, the Colombian referee did not show any cards, and the VAR did not intervene. This is in contrast to a similar situation in the English Premier League, where midfielder Casemiro received a straight red card in a match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace on February 4, 2023.
Later on, Uruguayan player Ugarte provoked De Paul with indecent gestures and remarks about Messi’s influence on the team. At halftime, coach Marcelo Bielsa replaced Ugarte to prevent further trouble. In the end, Uruguay won 2-0, with goals from Ronald Araujo and Darwin Nunez.
After the match, Messi stated that such scuffles were normal in South American football, and Uruguay always played like that. He also advised young Uruguayan players to respect their seniors. “Matches between Uruguay and Argentina are always tense, but they still contain a lot of respect,” Messi added. “Young Uruguayan players need to learn more.”
On the other hand, De Paul refused to talk about the incident and only wanted to focus on football. “On-field scuffles will end after the game,” he said.
Messi has received three red cards in his career, twice with Argentina and once with Barcelona. He was sent off in his first match for the national team in August 2005. In the 2019 Copa America, he received a controversial straight red card after a scuffle with defender Gary Medel in the third-place play-off. His most recent dismissal was for striking an Athletic Bilbao player during the Spanish Super Cup final on January 17, 2021.