By Ogbebor Precious Edosa
After two lackluster seasons, Lionel Messi’s partnership with Paris Saint-Germain is about to come to an end after the French champions suspended the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner for traveling to Saudi Arabia without permission.
Messi was expected to lead PSG to their elusive Champions League victory when he arrived in Paris from Barcelona in August 2021, welcomed as a hero by adoring fans.
It hasn’t worked out, and some of those supporters recently developed animosity toward a player they view as a representation of everything the club has done wrong in focusing on superstar acquisitions while failing to assemble a team that is actually competitive.
The Qatar-owned club informed Messi’s agent a month ago that the player was now “much more likely” to leave at the end of the season when his contract expires, despite having appeared to seal his signature for another season at one time.
Events this week are undoubtedly the tipping point.
Messi participated in PSG’s dull 3-1 home loss to Lorient in Ligue 1 on Sunday. Messi will be 36 in June.
In order to fulfill his obligations under a contract with the Saudi Arabian tourist board, he next traveled there.
Messi consequently skipped a workout scheduled for Monday after the weekend loss.
Despite the fact that Messi is one of the greatest players in sports, PSG moved quickly to punish him.
Despite the fact that PSG still needs wins in its final five games of the season in order to win the French championship, he has been suspended.
According to a source familiar with the disciplinary process, Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain would miss “several days” of action.
He would be suspended for two weeks, according to various French media outlets.
He won’t be paid while disciplinary procedures are in effect, the source continued, and he can’t practice or play.
The Saudi tourist authority announced Messi’s visit in a press release hours later, outlining his “jam-packed itinerary” that included feeding a herd of gazelles.
“Messi’s visit to Saudi was packed with exciting activities, with something for everyone in the family,” it said.
After their sixth loss in 17 Ligue 1 games in 2023, his colleagues returned to the training facility in Paris.
– Is a return to Barcelona possible?
Given the recent tensions between Qatar and its Gulf neighbor, it may be particularly embarrassing for the owners of PSG that Messi missed training to fly to Saudi Arabia.
Along with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia imposed a diplomatic embargo on Qatar in 2017, but since then, the countries’ relations have been restored. A reconciliation agreement was signed in January 2021.
Messi and Nasser al-Khelaifi, the president of PSG from Qatar, were featured on the front page of the French sports daily L’Equipe on Wednesday. The headline referred to “The Break-up”.
Messi stated that winning another Champions League championship was his “dream” and that he believed he was in “the ideal place” to achieve it when he was introduced by PSG.
However, it turns out that bringing an aging Messi into an attack that already features Kylian Mbappe and Neymar is not a surefire way to lead Europe to victory.
With Messi, PSG has lost twice in a row in the round of 16 of the Champions League.
Even though they sluggishly approach the finish line, they did win Ligue 1 last year and are on track to do it again this year.
Messi struggled in his debut season in Paris, scoring just 11 goals as he adjusted to life after leaving Barcelona.
He has made 20 contributions across all competitions this year, and he also has the most assists in Ligue1.
Mbappe and Messi have a terrific rapport, but we have only seen a small portion of his best play.
Losing Messi won’t hurt PSG’s prospects of winning the Champions League, but it’s unclear where the player will end up in the future.
Barcelona has been open about wanting to bring him back, but the Catalans’ continued financial woes raise questions about their capacity to close a deal. Messi may have to think about moving outside of Europe since he has no other obvious options there.
Inter Miami, a member of the MLS, is co-owned by David Beckham and has long been mentioned as a potential home for Messi.
Another is Saudi Arabia, where he can rekindle his rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently transferred to the Al Nassr team in Riyadh.