Messi set for return as PSG farewell looms

In this file photo taken on 30 April 2023, Paris Saint-Germain's Argentine forward Lionel Messi looks on as he warms up prior to the French Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Lorient at The Parc des Princes Stadium in ParisAFP

Lionel Messi is in line to return for Paris Saint-Germain for Saturday’s Ligue 1 game at home to Ajaccio after a club-imposed suspension for going on an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner sat out last weekend’s win at Troyes after missing a training session to fulfil commitments in his role as a Saudi tourism ambassador.

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The Argentine later apologised to the club and his team-mates, and resumed training with PSG on Monday, but his time at the Parc des Princes is coming to a sad end.

After two uninspiring years in France, Messi looks set to play in Saudi Arabia next season as part of a blockbuster deal that would see him follow arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo to the Gulf kingdom.

Messi, who turns 36 next month, will sign a “huge” contract with an as-yet-unnamed club, a source close to the negotiations told AFP this week.

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“Messi is a done deal. He will play in Saudi Arabia next season,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The contract is exceptional. It’s huge. We are just finalising some small details,” added the source, who is not authorised to speak to media.

PSG have yet to confirm the departure, while Messi’s father and agent Jorge insists the World Cup winner has not decided where he will play next season.

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But it appears certain his stint at PSG will conclude in June, after the club hopes to celebrate a record 11th French league crown.

“If the club had wanted to renew his contract, it would have been done earlier,” said a PSG source.

Lionel Messi at the PSG training session in Paris on 8 May 2023
PSG Twitter

Lens can close the gap at the top to three points if they beat Reims on Friday, but the title remains PSG’s to lose with their four remaining fixtures against sides in the bottom half.

Upcoming opponents Ajaccio are destined for an immediate return to Ligue 2 having won just once in 13 matches, with three of the four relegation spots all but decided.

Auxerre, in 16th, are fighting to avoid suffering the same fate as Ajaccio and take on Brest, the team directly above them in the standings.

Strasbourg bid to continue their late-season resurgence against Nice as the visit of relegated Angers provides third-placed Marseille the ideal chance to bounce back from defeat at Lens.