Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande have imposed a nine-match suspension on star Argentine midfielder Dario Conca for publicly criticising the club's coach Lee Jang-Soo.
The 28-year-old Argentine, who become one of world's highest paid players when Guangzhou signed him last July, stormed off the pitch and later criticised Lee for replacing him after an hour in the midweek 3-1 AFC Champions League (ACL) home loss to Jeonbuk Motors.
Guangzhou, who this week signed Paraguay international Lucas Barrios from Borussia Dortmund for €8.5 million, have responded by suspending their star man and fining him ¥1m (€120,000).
Conca had been ill in the lead-up to the ACL clash but opened the scoring in the Jeonbuk clash with a 10th-minute penalty, before being replaced with the scores locked at 1-1. Jeonbuk's Lee Dong-Gook would go on to score a late double to clinch the points for the Koreans, leaving Guangzhou's future in the competition in the balance.
The former Fluminense man appeared angry at Lee's decision to substitute him at the time and kicked a bottle before refusing to shake his coach's hand. Conca later publicly criticised Lee on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
He wrote: "I don't know why someone always thinks I am tired and needs rest. I was ill a long time before, so I must sit on the bench? If I could play and score such an important penalty it means I was physically okay. Why must the coaching staff always plan to rest Conca?"
Lee had justified his decision to replace Conca in the post-game press conference.
"We all know the condition of the player, he was ill and didn't play the away league match last weekend. We made a plan before the game, we decided to let him play 60 minutes," he said.
"When we changed Conca, we also got some chances... Football is just like that, if we could take our chances during 1-1, it would be a different result."
The nine-game club-imposed suspension puts Conca's future at Guangzhou under a cloud, with the club needing to release one of their four non-Asian foreigners to make room for Barrios when he joins in June.
Guangzhou have Conca as well as Brazilians Cleo, Muriqui and Paulao on their books, with the latter expected to be released to make way for Barrios.