Barcelona star Lionel Messi was spat at by a River Plate fan during an ugly airport altercation following his side's 3-0 victory in the Club World Cup final in Japan, Spanish media reported on Monday.
Messi, who scored the opening goal in Sunday's final, reportedly retaliated with a punch after being subjected to a series of insults from fans of the Argentine club as he was preparing to board a flight home from Tokyo's Narita airport.
"An ugly incident occurred at Narita international airport. When Barcelona players were getting ready to go through passport control and security, several River fans insulted Messi and the issue escalated to the point
that one of them spat at Messi," Spanish sports daily AS reported.
According to several reports, an irate Messi responded by "punching" the fan who spat at him, before Barca coach Luis Enrique and team-mates Javier Mascherano and Luis Suarez stepped in to defuse the situation.
However, Catalan daily Mundo Deportivo explained that shortly after the incident Messi was seen to be "smiling" and relaxed, "playing down the significance of the event".
Madrid-based daily Marca added that the group of supporters were also heckling ex-River player Mascherano, criticising him for "forgetting" his roots, with Mascherano having come through the youth ranks at the Buenos
Aires club before making his professional debut with them in 2003.