International soccer sensation Lionel Messi skipped FC Barcelona's pre-season tournament in the United States to attend the opening of a new stadium in Gabon on July 21. He is being accused of receiving £2.4 million from Gabon president Ali Bongo.
Lionel Messi sat out FC Barcelona's pre-season tournament in the United States to attend a stadium site opening in Gabon.
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Mirror Online's Jacob Murtagh reported the development on July 21. Messi was in Port-Gentil, Gabon on Tuesday to lay the first brick of a new stadium while his FC Barcelona teammates were in Los Angeles.
The bigger story is Messi being accused of receiving £2.4 million from Gabon's president Ali Bongo. Messi reportedly split the sum between himself and his former Barca teammate, Deco, per Mail Online's Peter Allen.
Murtagh says Messi was also at the opening of a restaurant owned by Bongo.
Gabon is a former French colony which has been regularly linked to corruption and human rights abuse. People are not very happy about Messi being linked to a nationwide scandal involving the African nation, per Allen.
"People are outraged by this," a source told Mirror Online on Tuesday. "Messi should do a bit of research into what Bongo represents."
FC Barcelona gave Messi permission to skip its pre-season tourney in the U.S. because he played in the recently-concluded Copa America, per Mirror Online.
FC Barcelona coach Luis Enrique told ESPN FC's Adriana Garcia on July 1 his superstar forward "needs to rest."
Aside from Messi, other FC Barcelona players who will miss the club's four-match International Champions Cup are Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Dani Alves and Claudio Bravo. All of them also competed in the Copa America, per ESPN FC.
Enrique told Garcia on Tuesday they need to take some valuable time off.
"They all need holidays," Garcia said. "We like fans to come and see Barca but those players that are here have great quality...We are sorry for the fans but the season is very long."
According to ESPN FC's Fransesc Tomas, Messi will rejoin Barca on Aug. 3. That will mark the end of his 30-day vacation.
Messi has been criticized for his sub-par performance in Argentina's 1-0 loss to Chile in the Copa America final. Tomas stresses he must take some time off in order to prepare for FC Barcelona's upcoming challenges.
On the other hand, Tomas says Neymar's absence is bound to frustrate sponsors and fans alike in the United States. Without a doubt, they would pay good money to watch the Brazilian sensation play.
Enrique told Tomas that Neymar can return to Barca when Alves does.
Tomas says a lot of attention will be on FC Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez, who is rumored to be targeted by Manchester United and Chelsea. Rodriguez will no doubt use the International Champions Cup as a way to show his true worth.
German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen returned from his own vacation 30 days earlier than expected, per Tomas. As for new Barca players Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, they won't be able to to suit up until Jan. 2016 because of a transfer ban which FIFA has ruled to be applicable for both official and exhibition matches.
The International Champions Cup will kick off on July 21 with FC Barcelona taking on Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Barca will then take on Manchester United (July 25 in San Francisco), Chelsea (July 29 in Washington, D.C.) and Fiorentina (Aug. 2 in Florence, Italy) in its next three matches, per Tomas.
Tomas says the tournament aims to increase brand awareness and raise funds for FC Barcelona. In spite of Messi and Neymar's absence, he says it has "generated unprecedented interest" in America.
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