'We have no other choice': Messi leads Argentina media boycott over Lavezzi drug claims
Barcelona superstar Messi announced the press ban in protest at allegations from radio journalist Gabriel Aiello that striker Ezequiel Lavezzi had smoked marijuana joint at Argentina's training base.
Accompanied by the rest of the squad following the World Cup qualifying win, Messi said the players were unhappy at the lack of respect shown towards them.
“We're here to let you know that we will no longer be communicating with the press,” the 29-year-old said.
“The accusations that were made towards Lavezzi were huge. We regret that it has to be this way but we have no other choice. We know that many of you don't play that game.
Lionel Messi: "The accusations that were made towards Lavezzi were huge."— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) November 16, 2016
“We were accused a lot. No respect was being shown and we never said anything. But this accusation was against Lavezzi.
“If we don't stop it today, we'll never stop it. We know that you will continue to criticize us, that's fine. However, some got into our personal lives.
Messi: Argentina boycotting media over Lavezzi cannabis claims https://t.co/W1Bti7mCli— Goal (@goal) November 16, 2016
“We wanted to say this in front of everyone and not release a statement. We didn't want to hide from anyone.
“These past two weeks were filled with personal aggression, not football criticism. You can criticize us for winning or losing, but when you get personal we will draw the line.”
Hebei China Fortune striker Lavezzi has denied the claim made against him and vowed to take legal action against the journalist for making “false statements against me and the serious damage that have generated to my family and in my work.”
He issued a tweet, in Spanish, that read: "I hereby inform you that I am going to initiate legal proceedings against Gabriel Anello for his false statements against me for the serious damages that have caused my family and in my work."
The 31-year-old played no part in last Thursday's 3-0 defeat to Brazil and was not named on the substitutes' bench for the game against Colombia.
In addition to the allegations made against Lavezzi, ‘La Albiceleste’ came in for heavy criticism for their performance against Brazil, although their victory over Colombia moved them up to fifth place and back into qualifying contention.
The top four in the South America group qualify automatically for the finals, while fifth place secures an intercontinental playoff spot.
“I told the players I'm happy for them after a week of criticism and because it wasn't an easy match,” said head coach Edgardo Bauza after the Colombia game.