Lionel Messi, Argentina's football icon, has issued an apology to Spanish referee Mateu Lahoz following a contentious exchange during the fiery 2022 World Cup quarter-final clash between Argentina and the Netherlands, reported by GOAL. Lahoz, who handed out 17 yellow cards and a red during the intense match, revealed that Messi had behaved poorly, leading to a post-game apology from the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.

The dispute arose when Messi taunted Dutch coach Louis van Gaal by cupping his ears in the direction of the former Barcelona boss after scoring a crucial goal. Messi subsequently criticized FIFA's choice of referees, stating that “FIFA cannot appoint a referee of this calibre for matches of this magnitude.” Lahoz, recalling the incident, revealed that Messi had verbally lashed out at him during the game, but later expressed remorse for his actions.

In a conversation with Tiempo de Juego, Mateu Lahoz shared his experience, saying, “Leo Messi called me after the Netherlands game in the World Cup and apologized for the harsh words he said to me during the game. He was a different Messi in that game. He behaved very badly in the World Cup; it was a shame. We shared more than 50 matches together down the years.”

Messi attributed his behavior to nerves and later faced backlash for his derogatory comments aimed at Dutch player Wout Weghorst, using the term “bobo.” Despite the heated moments, Messi's willingness to acknowledge his actions and extend an apology reflects his sportsmanship, reminding fans of his ability to rise above contentious situations. As the football world looks forward to Messi's future performances, this incident serves as a reminder of the emotional intensity and passion that define the beautiful game.