FC Barcelona: Lionel Messi, Royston Drenthe and Unsubstantiated Allegations of Racism

Drenthe is currently on loan to Everton, but is unlikely to remain at the club past the summer after falling out with David Moyes over a breach of discipline

I’m sure you have seen the reports by now, but for those who are out of the loop, Royston Drenthe has made some pretty huge accusations against current World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi. Much like a high-profile incident earlier in the year involving Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra, Drenthe claims that Lionel Messi constantly referred to him as "negro" when the two players faced each other back in 2010.

Barcelona have defended Lionel Messi as one might expect, with a spokesman for the club reportedly saying this in response:

"The player has always shown maximum respect and sportsmanship towards his rivals, something recognised by fellow professionals. We are sure that any accusations to the contrary are well wide of the mark."

At current, these claims are entirely unsubstantiated, but as with all accusations of racism, they have an impact on public opinion. For example, die-hard Madridista and journalist for AS, Tomas Rincero tweeted on the subject in a manner befitting of a Real Madrid fan as he took Drenthe’s words for gospel, despite the Dutchman stating in the same interview that Gabriel Heinze and Gonzalo Higuain both referred to Mahamadou Diarra in the same way.

While I deplore racism in any form, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration, the first of which being that these claims are being levelled against Lionel Messi without any proof. Unless Drenthe has some sort of video or audio that we do not know about, the only "proof" we have is the words in that interview for Helden. Shaky evidence at best. Secondly, if Drenthe felt so aggrieved by the whole incident, then why on earth has it taken him two years to speak up? That’s over 600 days since the 2-0 win at the Camp Nou, and now he feels ready to voice his discontent about the treatment he allegedly received from Messi?

Thirdly, and it’s a poor excuse to use, but the use of the word "negro" is common place in South American and Latin cultures, and as Drenthe mentioned, it was even common between teammates at Real Madrid, until Diarra educated them otherwise.

Personally, I would place large doubts over the validity of his claims because of that huge time gap, but whatever the case, Lionel Messi is innocent until proven guilty.

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