Messi’s PSG future in doubt after suspension over Saudi trip
Paris Saint Germain’s football club supporters demonstrate in front of the club’s headquarters to protest against a disciplinary procedure against Lionel Messi in Boulogne-Billancourt, on 3 May 2023. – Paris Saint-Germain’s relationship with Lionel Messi is set to end after two underwhelming years following the French champions’ decision to suspend the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner for going on an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)
Lionel Messi’s future at PSG was plunged into doubt on Wednesday after he was suspended by Paris Saint-Germain after travelling to Saudi Arabia without the club’s permission.
A source with knowledge of the disciplinary procedure told AFP that Argentina’s 35-year-old World-Cup winning captain, who is out of contract at the end of the season, would be sidelined for “several days”, while various media in France reported that he would be suspended for two weeks.
“He cannot train, cannot play, and will not be paid while disciplinary measures are in place,” the source added.
Another source, also speaking on condition they were not identified, indicated that the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner would “probably” be sidelined for a fortnight, noting that “nobody is more important than the club”.
Messi played the whole game in PSG’s 3-1 home defeat by Lorient in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
He then travelled to Saudi Arabia to fulfil commercial commitments in his role as a tourism ambassador for the Gulf state.
The Saudi Tourism Authority said in a press release on Wednesday that Messi had “returned to Saudi for a second time, this time with his family” and had been treated to a demonstration of palm weaving and had fed Arabian gazelles.
As a result of the trip, Messi missed a training session scheduled for Monday following the weekend defeat.
The PSG squad were given a day off on Tuesday and Messi did not take part in training on Wednesday either.
PSG are due to return to league action away at struggling Troyes on Sunday, a game that Messi may now miss.
If he were to be sidelined for two weeks he would also sit out a home match against Ajaccio on 13 May.
The disciplinary measures make the prospect of Messi staying in the French capital after his two-year deal expires at the end of this season even more remote.
Having at one point looked set to extend his stay for another year, a source close to the club told AFP last month that he was now “much more likely” to depart.
Messi arrived from Barcelona, the club where he had spent the majority of his career, in 2021 but has struggled to reproduce his best form at Qatar-backed Paris.
Despite that, he has scored 31 goals in 71 appearances in all competitions.
He was recently jeered by a section of the PSG support, who see him as a symbol of all the club has done wrong in focusing on superstar signings while failing to build a genuinely competitive team.
Messi has scored 20 goals in all competitions this season and is the leading assist provider in Ligue 1, with 15.
However, his form since leading Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar has declined along with that of most of the PSG team.
Their insipid performance against Lorient was the sixth defeat in 17 Ligue 1 matches in 2023.
They remain five points clear of Marseille at the top of the table with five games left, and are therefore still on course for a record 11th French title.
However, they were knocked out of the Champions League in the last 16 by Bayern Munich and also went out of the French Cup at the same stage at Marseille.
Meanwhile, hundreds of fans gathered at the club to protest over PSG’s current form and the Messi saga.
“We’re fed up with mercenaries! We must sack Messi! We must sack Nasser Al-Khelaifi (the club’s Qatari president),” supporters chanted.
“We are sincerely worried about the future and the sustainability of our club,” the team’s ‘ultras’ supporters said in a statement, adding “is there still a pilot on the plane?”
Meanwhile, several videos posted on Twitter appeared to show a group of supporters, dressed in black gathered in front of the home of Neymar, shouting abuse at their injured Brazilian superstar.
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