Spain’s Gerard Pique has come to the defence of Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi after the Argentina star received a four-match ban from international football.

Messi was controversially suspended just hours before La Albiceleste’s World Cup qualifier away to Bolivia on Tuesday as a result of insults allegedly aimed by the forward towards a linesman during last week’s win over Chile.

In the absence of their talisman, Edgardo Bauza’s team lost 2-0 in La Paz, leaving them fifth in CONMEBOL qualifying and facing the prospect of needing to win an inter-confederation play-off if they are to reach next year’s finals in Russia.

Speaking to the media after Spain’s 2-0 friendly victory over France in Paris, centre-back Pique took aim at the seemingly draconian punishment.

“I am not the person to discuss a decision of FIFA, but it seems an outrage to me that they have given Messi four matches,” Pique said.

Messi has enjoyed a stunning season at club level, scoring 41 goals in 40 games, with Barca currently second in La Liga, two points behind Real Madrid, who have played a game less.

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