Lionel Messi was spat at by angry River Plate fans as Barcelona made their way home from the Club World Cup final, with team-mates forced to hold back the Argentine star.
The 28-year-old, who has endured a rather fraught relationship with fans of la Albiceleste in recent years, had earlier scored in the 3-0 victory over River in the final in Yokohama to send his countrymen packing.
Barcelona were at Tokyo’s Narita airport ready to fly back to Spain with their latest trophy when the incident occurred at passport control, with a brief scuffle breaking out.
A Argentina fan insulted Messi. Luis Suarez and Javier intervened to defend Messi. pic.twitter.com/2eHf7qwQT1
— Barcelona HQ (@BarcelonaHQ) December 21, 2015
Reports suggest River fans began shouting abuse at Messi as the Barca team headed through the security gate, with one even spitting at the forward, who had to be held back by Javier Mascherano and manager Luis Enrique.
One of Messi’s best friends in the Barca squad, Luis Suarez, was also seen calming down Messi, who had tried to confront the angry fans.
The situation was cooled by a combination of Barcelona officials and the intervention of Mascherano and Luis Enrique, though it will have done little to improve Messi’s relationship with supporters from his home nation.
Despite the insult & spat incident, Leo Messi did not mind taking selfie with a River Plate fan pic.twitter.com/vHUhuElxXE
— Argentina Football (@ARG_soccernews) December 21, 2015
The fracas was witnessed by media and fans looking to take pictures with the Barca stars, while River directors who were nearby immediately condemned the behaviour of the fans to Argentine media.
Barcelona picked up their fifth trophy of the year with the comprehensive win over River on Sunday, with Messi opening the scoring before Luis Suarez netted twice more – the Uruguayan ended the tournament with five goals and the Golden Ball award.
The Catalan club do not play again until December 30, when they face Real Betis, and remain top of the Liga table after Atletico Madrid surprisingly lost 1-0 to Malaga.