On Monday, French sports newspaper L’équipe reported that septuple Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi was sanctioned and suspended from his club duties for the next two weeks following an unauthorized trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. According to the media station, Paris Saint Germain (PSG) coach Christoph Galtier had promised players two days of rest and no training if the team defeated Lorient and clinched an extra three points on April 30. Unfortunately for PSG, they suffered from a harrowing 3-1 loss, forcing Galtier to cancel the two days of practice-free time promised, expecting the team to return to the club’s grounds the following Monday to analyze their mistakes, work on their weaknesses, and prepare for their next game. All athletes did indeed return, except for Messi, who reportedly had jumped on the first flight towards KSA instead.
Last year, the 2022 FIFA World Cup winner was appointed ambassador for Saudi Arabia’s Tourist Board to help promote the country’s culture, attract more visitors to the Kingdom, and enhance the Gulf State’s global image. Having to honor duties pertaining to his lucrative multi-year sponsorship with the monarchy, despite a permission request denied by club officials, Messi was photographed in Jeddah while the rest of his team was back in training following their defeat — a brash act of defiance that was quick to spark a reaction from PSG.
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The athlete’s move that was not authorized by his boss resulted in him being suspended for two weeks without pay by the French club. The noise-generating news happens to come amid a sensitive time between both parties, who are currently still struggling to see eye-to-eye. As Messi’s contract is drawing to an end, hopes of seeing the consensually considered legend of the sport extend his time in the French capital are getting slimmer, with reports revealing that representatives of the athlete have been in contact with FC Barcelona, suggesting a potential return to his boyhood club to whom he is emotionally attached. Meanwhile, according to other reports, the 35-year-old forward has plans to join Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia, who allegedly made a bid offering the Argentinian athlete a hefty $400M per year — which would be nearly twice as much than what Cristiano Ronaldo is currently receiving at Al Nasr FC.
By the sounds of it, performing with PSG is at the bottom of his priorities. Having showcased very poor statistics since he joined the Parisian club in 2021, with 33 goals and 31 assists in 71 games, the numbers he has generated during his stint with the French club pale in comparison of those during his time with Barcelona. Given his reluctancy in partaking in any exercises to improve his game and collective spirit instead respecting his contractual obligations with Saudi Arabia, it seems as if his commitment to PSG may have dwindled making his time in France seem not as successful as many had hoped.