BARCELONA • Lionel Messi was at the centre of a head-butting controversy on Wednesday as Barcelona cruised to a 3-0 victory over Serie A side Roma in a pre-season friendly at the Camp Nou.
The Argentinian superstar, renowned for rarely losing his cool despite regularly being the target of brutal tackling, reacted angrily during a confrontation with Roma's French international Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Footage of the first-half incident showed Messi aiming a headbutt at Yanga-Mbiwa after the defender appeared to nod his head in the direction of the diminutive South American star.
A furious Messi grabbed Yanga-Mbiwa by the throat after clashing with the defender before other players rushed over to intervene.
Messi escaped a red card, receiving only a caution from referee Javier Estrada Fernandez.
Yanga-Mbiwa was also booked.
The flashpoint represented a rare loss of cool for Messi.
The Argentinian has never been sent off for Barcelona and has only had one red card - on his international debut as a teenager in 2005.
Messi's anger soon subsided and, moments after the incident, he doubled Barcelona's lead.
He made it 2-0 following a superb flowing move involving Luis Suarez, Dani Alves and Neymar, who had scored Barca's first.
Ivan Rakitic made it 3-0 in the second half with a long-range strike as Barcelona completed a routine win.