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French Ligue1

Argentina star Messi to play last game for PSG on Saturday

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Lionel Messi will play his last game for Paris St Germain against Clermont on Saturday, coach Christophe Galtier said on Thursday as he called on fans to give the Argentine forward a warm send-off at the Parc des Princes.

Messi, who has 21 goals and 20 assists for PSG in all competitions this season, moved to the French capital from Barcelona in 2021 on a two-year contract.

The 35-year-old, who led Argentina to the World Cup title in Qatar and also boasts a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, won the Ligue 1 title in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons with PSG as well as the French Super Cup in July 2022.

“I had the privilege of coaching the best player in the history of football. This will be his last match at the Parc des Princes, and I hope that he will receive the warmest of welcomes,” Galtier told reporters on Thursday.

Last month, French media reported that Messi was suspended for two weeks after an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia when he was supposed to train with his team following their 3-1 defeat at home to Lorient in the league.

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“This year, he has been an important part of the team, always available. I don’t think any of the comments or criticisms are justified,” Galtier said.

“He’s always been there for the team. It’s been a great privilege to accompany him throughout the season.”

Messi’s future at PSG had been the subject of much speculation recently, with a source close to the Argentina captain telling Reuters that he had received a formal offer to join Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal next season.

He has also been linked in the media with a move back to boyhood club Barcelona, with the United States’ Major League Soccer club Inter Miami also being touted as a possible destination.

PSG’S TITLE CELEBRATIONS ON HOLD

Messi’s last game for PSG is unlikely to be a joyous affair, with Galtier saying that their title celebrations would be put on ice with the distraught squad’s thoughts occupied with concern for goalkeeper Sergio Rico.

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Rico was involved in a riding accident while participating in an annual pilgrimage in southern Spain, the day after PSG wrapped up the title with one game to spare after a 1-1 draw at Racing Strasbourg.

Rico has been in intensive care after suffering “a serious mishap due to a mule cart and a horse that hit him”, his family said in a statement late on Sunday. Spanish paper Marca reported that Rico had been riding a horse himself.

“There will be no celebrations, it’s been a very difficult week. We’re all affected because we went from winning the French title on Saturday to waking up in more than a little pain on Sunday morning,” Galtier told reporters ahead of PSG’s final league game of the season.

“We’re all affected, and we’re trying as best we can to take our minds off things through the training sessions… We’re very united in sending out lots of positive vibes and energy to Sergio, his mum, his wife and his loved ones.”

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Messi walks out on PSG fans after defeat

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Messi walks out on PSG fans after defeat




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Paris St Germain were lucky enough to enjoy the continued support of their fans during their 2-0 home defeat against Stade Rennais on Sunday – their first at home in Ligue 1 this season, but only a few players went to the Auteuil kop to greet them after a dismal display.

Kylian Mbappe was one of them after the France forward was denied twice by Rennes keeper Steve Mandanda, but Lionel Messi, who looked nothing like the player who inspired Argentina to the World Cup title last December, walked straight to the dressing room, as did the disappointing Marco Verratti.

PSG lead the standings on 66 points from 28 games with a seven-point advantage over Olympique de Marseille, who ended Stade de Reims’s 19-game unbeaten streak in the league with a 2-1 away win courtesy of an Alexis Sanchez double.

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Neymar to leave hospital on Sunday after operation

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Neymar to leave hospital on Sunday after operation




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Brazilian football star Neymar is seen after surgery with (from left) Brazilian national team doctor Rodrigo Lasmarchief, Aspetar’s chief medical officer Pieter D’Hooghe, and British surgeon James Calder. PHOTO: AFP

Brazil star Neymar will leave a Qatar sports hospital on Sunday to rest before starting rehabilitation after an operation on his ankle, officials said.

Doctors at the Aspetar hospital would not give a date when the 31-year-old Paris Saint-Germain striker would return to action but they are confident that Friday’s surgery was a success.

PSG said before the operation the forward could be out for up to four months, ruling him out of the rest of this season.

“Neymar Junior was operated yesterday, it was very successful,” Mr Hakim Chalabi, assistant director-general at the Aspetar hospital and an adviser to PSG’s medical team, told AFP.

“Right now, he is very good and he is happy.

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“He is not so painful and the surgeons who operated are very happy.”

Neymar will leave the 50-bed specialist sports hospital on Sunday, officials said.

Mr Chalabi said that after a period of rest, PSG will start physiotherapy.

“Later on, we will evaluate a time for a return on the field. Right now it is a bit soon to talk about.

“He is going to be on crutches for a few days but then after he should be back to half weight lifting.”

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Neymar was stretchered off with his latest injury in a Ligue 1 game against Lille last month. He injured the same ankle in 2018.

Mr Chalabi said that after the operation, Neymar “should be back at a normal level but with less risk of injury.”

Fitness has been a regular concern since PSG signed Neymar for a world-record €222 million in 2017.

He has played only 112 of PSG’s 228 Ligue 1 matches since his arrival.

AFP

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Messi’s life under threat in Argentina!

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Two people on motorcycles shot at a supermarket belonging to the family of Antonela Roccuzzo, wife of Lionel Messi, in Rosario, in Argentina’s Santa Fe province early on Thursday morning, local media and the city’s mayor reported.

A threatening hand-written message for 35-year-old Messi, Argentina’s captain and seven-times World Player of the Year, was also left on the shop door.

“Messi, we are waiting for you, (Pablo) Javkin (the mayor) is also a narco, he is not going to take care of you,” it read.

Javkin blamed the security forces for failing to effectively combat organized crime, which in recent years has grown in the important port city, where dozens of ships daily load thousands of tons of grain.

“I spoke (with the Roccuzzos) and they are worried,” Javkin told reporters outside the supermarket that was attacked.

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Television images showed bullet casings on the sidewalk where the business belonging to Roccuzzo’s family is located. The front of the building was hit by 14 bullets and the shop remained closed on Thursday morning.

Santa Fe’s Security Minister Claudio Brilloni told reporters that authorities did not have any firm assumptions regarding the motives for the attack. Prosecutor Federico Rébola said the Roccuzzo family had not received any previous threats, a Rosario media outlet reported.

On the official Twitter account “Team Messi” and Antonela Roccuzzo’s Instagram profile there were no mentions of the incidents.

The murder rate in Rosario is among the highest in Argentina, as gangs linked to drug trafficking coexist, according to judicial complaints, and clashes causing injuries and deaths are frequently reported.

The attack came weeks before Argentina play two friendly matches in the South American country, three months after Messi led the team to victory in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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Neither game will take place in Rosario. Argentina face Panama on March 23 in the capital Buenos Aires and on March 28 they play in the province of Santiago del Estero against Curacao.

The matches will be the team’s first in Argentina since the World Cup. Coach Lionel Scaloni has not yet named his squad.

-Reuters

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