PARIS: Lionel Messi faces being suspended by Paris Saint-Germain after travelling to Saudi Arabia earlier this week without the club’s permission, a source with knowledge of the matter told AFP on Tuesday. The source said that Argentina’s World-Cup winning captain, who is out of contract at the end of the season, would be banned for “several days”, while various media in France reported that he would be hit with a two-week suspension.
“He cannot train, cannot play, and will not be paid while disciplinary measures are in place,” the source added. Another club source 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, who will turn 36 in June, played in PSG’s 3-1 home defeat by Lorient in Ligue 1 on Sunday. He then travelled to Saudi Arabia to fulfill commitments as part of a contract with the country’s tourist office. As a result Messi missed a training session penciled in for Monday following the weekend defeat, before the PSG squad were given a day off on Tuesday. The source with knowledge of the matter said that the Argentine would 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 May 13. 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 at the campaign’s end.
Messi arrived from Barcelona in 2021 but has struggled to reproduce his best form in Paris, scoring 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 have 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 the team. PSG’s insipid performance against Lorient brought a 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 to Marseille. — AFP