Lionel Messi apologizes for trip to Saudi Arabia as his tenure at PSG is all but over


PSG’s Lionel Messi gestures during the warm-up ahead of the French Ligue 1 soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Lorient at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Sunday April 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)

Lionel Messi underscored a tumultuous week on Friday with a belated attempt at damage control that included an apology to Paris Saint-Germain and his team-mates for skipping training in favor of a trip to Saudi Arabia.

In a seemingly contrite video posted to his Instagram page in Spanish, Messi claimed that he had previously canceled the trip and ‘couldn’t cancel it again’. (The trip was part of his lucrative deal with the Saudi government to boost tourism in the Gulf Kingdom.)

Messi also said: “Honestly, I thought we’d have a day off after the game, as had been the case for the past few weeks” – although this claim is reportedly a little fallacious. PSG players usually have Mondays off after a Sunday win. Messi had reportedly asked permission to use this day off to travel to Saudi Arabia but club officials had only given conditional permission if PSG won or drew.

Instead, Messi and the Parisians lost 3-1 at home to Lorient as fans howled in displeasure. The next day, Messi boarded a private jet anyway. His absence reportedly sparked tensions among the players. A day later, the club suspended him for two weeks without pay. And a day later, hundreds of disgruntled PSG ultras gathered outside the club’s training ground, with Messi among several themes of their vocal anger.

As it later turned out, the suspension was merely public evidence of an impending divorce. Reportedly, Messi and/or PSG had already decided that his contract would not be renewed. He will leave him in the summer, with Barcelona, ​​Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami set to be his top three suitors. In fact, it’s unclear if he’ll ever play for PSG again – and whether he does is all but irrelevant in the grand scheme of his glittering career.

But as PSG reconsidered and teammates fretted, Messi’s mostly brilliant reputation faltered. Choosing a sponsorship deal with an authoritarian state over football was inappropriate for a GOAT. His Saudi connections had begun to draw more attention than ever. And in that ugly split with PSG, or at least in that particular saga that hastened it, Messi seemed at fault.

Behind the scenes, its representatives apparently tried to spin the narrative, but without much success. Then, on Friday, they filmed and posted the 37-second video to Messi’s Instagram story.

“Hello. Well, I wanted to make this video after everything that’s happening,” Messi said to the camera. “First of all, I apologize to my teammates, to the club.

He later repeated the apology “for what I did.” He then said he was waiting “to see what the club decides”, presumably referring to his near-term future. PSG have five league games left. The two-week suspension would rule him out for two of them. Whether Messi will play in the last three is still unclear.

And that’s it. “Nothing more,” Messi concluded. Then he said goodbye with two words, his face never breaking a smile: “Un abrazo.” A hug.

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