How Many Red Cards Does Messi Have?

Throughout his career, Lionel Messi has consistently been one of the most famous and best soccer players in the world. He is also considered to be a calm and patient player, but one thing many people don’t know about him is how many times he has received a red card.

Messi has a total of 3 red cards.

Lionel Messi has received 3 red cards throughout his professional career. One in August 2005 in his first game for Argentina, the second in June 2019, again while playing for Argentina in the Copa America, and the third in January 2021 while playing for Barcelona.

These red cards were out of character for a player who has relatively very few misdemeanors to his name and who is rarely even shown a yellow card when he plays.

Two of these red cards were also considered to be controversial, and many people think he actually didn’t deserve either of them.

I’ll let you make up your mind about that, but let’s have a look at each of them now in more detail.

Name of playerLionel Messi
Total number of red cards3
Date of 1st red cardAugust 2005
Date of 2nd red cardJune 2019
Date of 3rd red cardJanuary 2021
Number of red cards for Club1
Number of red cards for Country2
Table of information about Messi’s red cards

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Messi’s 1st Red Card

Messi received his first red card in his first game for Argentina.

On August 15, 2005, Argentina was playing Hungary in Budapest in an international friendly game.

Lionel Messi, who was only 18 years old at the time, had never played for his country until now and was ready to get on and play.

In the 64th minute, he came on as a substitute to replace Lisandro Lopez. The expectations were high as Messi was already considered to be an emerging talent, and people were eager to see how he would play.

However, within less than two minutes of being on the soccer field, he had been shown a red card and was already making his way off the field.

Although Messi has denied that it was his intention, the referee judged that after being pulled back and fouled by a player on the Hungary team, he had swung his elbow at the player and struck the player’s face.

Messi claimed he was only trying to get himself free from the grip of the other player, but the referee saw the incident in a different light and sent him off the field.

Have a look at the video below of Messi getting the red card and see what you think.

Lionel Messi First Red Card - Insane Debut for Argentina

As you can see in the video, this game took place before Messi had even started wearing the number 10 jersey that he is now famous for.

He has now well and truly taken his place in the long list of great players to wear the number 10, but you can find out more about this in my article – The Number 10 in Soccer: Why it’s so significant.

Messi’s 2nd Red Card

14 years after receiving his first red card, Messi was shown a red card for the second time in his career while playing in the 2019 Copa America tournament.

Argentina and Chile were involved in a hot-tempered third-place playoff game at the end of the Copa America.

Argentina was already 2 goals up against Chile when, in the 37th minute, tempers boiled over when Chile player Gary Mendel felt Messi had deliberately pushed him in the back while running for the ball.

In response to this, Mendel forcibly moved his body towards Messi, making contact mostly with his chest but maybe his head as well. In response to this, Messi seemed to only attempt to stand his ground.

After reviewing the video replay, the referee controversially decided that they should both get a red card for what happened, even though Messi did not seem to do anything overly aggressive that clearly warranted a red card.

After this, Messi received a $1500 fine and a one-game suspension for being sent off.

June 2019 was the last time Messi received a red card for his country.

Watch the video below to see the incident for yourself.

Messi vs Chile Messi red card

*If you’re also interested in finding out whether Messi speaks English or not, check out my article answering this question. You’ll find out what happened on three different occasions when Messi had the opportunity to do so.*

Messi’s 3rd Red Card: First for Barcelona

Since his first game in 2004, Messi has played over 700 times for Barcelona. This is a phenomenal achievement for any player, but what makes it more impressive is his disciplinary record for them.

Lionel Messi has only received one red card while playing for Barcelona. The only other red cards he has received throughout his career are two red cards he received while playing for his country, Argentina.

After being shown a red card for his country in June 2019, it took another 18 months before Lionel Messi received another red card.

Messi received his first and only red card for Barcelona during the Spanish Super Cup final in January 2021. [source]

This sending-off wasn’t quite as controversial as the previous two. However, it did take the referee to review VAR to spot the incident.

During the 120th minute of the game, deep into extra time, Lionel Messi swung his arm and made contact with Asier Villalibre, who had just challenged him for the ball. At the time, Barcelona was losing the game 2-3.

After Villalibre fell to the ground, the fourth referee alerted the referee on the field to the incident. The referee viewed the collision between Messi and Villalibre and decided Messi should leave the field.

Have a look at the video below to see the incident yourself.

Lionel Messi's FIRST RED CARD for Barcelona | Supercopa Final 2021
Messi’s red card for Barcelona

Messi’s Playing Style Limits the Number of Cards He Receives

Although Messi clearly works hard at not committing many fouls during a game, it has undoubtedly helped him that he has played for a team that dominates possession of the ball, whichever team they face.

Not only that, but he has also never styled himself as an aggressive or defensive style of player. He is an attacker and spends far more of his time taking the ball to the other team rather than making tackles for his own team.

These two factors dramatically reduce the incidents where he is at risk of making a mistake, being disciplined by the referee, and being shown a red or yellow card.

But that doesn’t mean he never receives a yellow card in a game.

The Number of Yellow Cards Messi Has Received

Even though Messi has only received 3 red cards during his career, he has received more yellow cards than this.

In fact, throughout his career, Messi has received 90 yellow cards. 81 yellow cards during his time with Barcelona, 8 with Argentina, and 1 yellow card with French team PSG.

Considering the number of games he has played, this is still a relatively small amount, and being shown a yellow card in just over 10% of the games you play is not bad at all.

Messi’s record of red and yellow cards also compares very favorably to his long-term rival, Christiano Ronaldo.

Red and Yellow Cards: Messi Vs Ronaldo

Ronaldo and Messi have been competing for the top spot in soccer records, awards, trophies, and titles throughout their careers.

However, when it comes to the number of red and yellow cards received, Ronaldo dominates the statistics.

To date, Messi has received 90 yellow and 3 red cards.

Ronaldo has received 128 yellow and 11 red cards.

They may be similar in many achievements, but this isn’t one of them!


Hopefully, you now feel you know how many, when, and why Lionel Messi received the 3 red cards he has shown in his career.

If you’re looking for a great gift for yourself or any other Leo Messi fan, this Adidas Performance Messi Soccer Ball shown above would be an amazing option. Click here to see it on Amazon.

One of the reasons that Messi can play as well as he can and avoid making mistakes that lead to red cards is his choice of footwear. The Adidas Nemeziz 19.1 soccer cleats that he wears are an incredibly well-designed and comfortable pair of cleats that would improve anyone’s game. To go to Amazon and check them out, click on this link here.

If you want more information about red cards in soccer, check out my article A Complete Guide to Red Card in Soccer,” which I recently wrote. It will explain the meaning of the red card, the consequences of receiving one, and how a player ends up being shown one.

Similarly, if you’re interested in finding out more about the use of a yellow card in soccer, then go to my article “A Complete Guide to the Yellow Card in Soccer, which I also recently wrote.

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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