Lionel Messi was criticized for his behavior after taking an unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia, leading to his two-week suspension on Tuesday.
From Brazilian football legend Rivaldo to the French media, however, one person defending the 35-year-old, especially in France, is FC Nantes manager Antoine Kombouaré.
Kombouaré slammed the various critics of Messi during his press conference ahead of their match against Strasbourg on Sunday.
“What bothers me most is that it’s a lynching today,” Kombouaré said (h/t RMC Sport). “It annoys me. I’ve always said: we don’t touch Messi. Whatever he does. I’m passionate; I like the player. When I hear guys say he doesn’t run on the pitch, I don’t give a f–k.
“If I had Messi, I would tell him to stay in front, never to defend. I would like to see him have fun and shine. This is my opinion, that of an enthusiast. We come across a guy … It’s shameful. We don’t touch Messi. Do I speak French or not? I don’t care about PSG’s problems. We don’t touch Messi! I’m in love with the player. After what he’s doing is PSG’s problems. He’s going to leave; I’m super happy. We don’t deserve it. I love Messi. We don’t touch Messi, [do] you understand? Thank you Messi! I’m paying to see him play!”
Messi did apologize for his behavior, but some in the French media believe it doesn’t change the current situation. As a result, this week’s suspension saga is the cherry on top of his likely departure in June when his contract expires.
The Argentine will have options, but the only European destination appears to be FC Barcelona. However, the Spanish club has financial issues that might prevent them from making the reunion a reality.
Nonetheless, there are options outside Europe, with Al-Hilal and Inter Miami keen on the player, so it will be interesting to see where Messi’s career goes for the 2023-24 season.