Lionel Messi accused Copa America officials of “corruption” after the Argentina star was sent off for just the second time in his career during the Copa America third-place play-off against Chile.
Messi snubbed the medal ceremony after the game – which Argentina won 2-1 – following his red card for a clash with Chile skipper Gary Medel in the 37th minute.
The pair were both given their marching orders by Paraguayan referee referee Mario Diaz de Vivar after first barging chests, while Medel appeared to lower his head towards the Argentina captain.
Messi raged afterwards at the decision to send him and Medel off, saying: “I think the referee overreacted. With a yellow card for both of us, everything would be over.
"I feel lot of anger because I think I did not deserve that red card because I think we were playing a very good game.
"We were ahead, but, as I said recently, unfortunately there is a lot of corruption, the referees," he added, according to ESPN.
Messi has previously branded lashed out at organizers and match officials of a tournament in Brazil that he has been critical of throughout, calling them “bullsh*t.”
When asked whether he felt that criticism played a role in his sending off, he said: "Yes, unfortunately, yes. You cannot be honest, and you cannot say how things should be done."
The South American football authority CONMEBOL later issued a statement rejecting Messi’s accusations.
"These accusations represent a lack of respect to the competition, to all the participating players and to the hundreds of professionals of the CONMEBOL, an institution that since 2016 has been working tirelessly to make transparent, professionalize and develop South American football, " the organization said.
Messi’s red card was just the second in his career, the first coming just minutes into his Argentina debut 14 years ago.
Argentina won Saturday night’s game 2-1 thanks to first-half goals from Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala, while Chile pulled a goal back in the second half from a penalty by Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal.
Hosts Brazil and Peru contest the final on Sunday at the legendary Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, as Peru appear at this stage of the competition for the first time in 44 years, while Brazil are aiming to win it for the first time since 2007.