Football: Lionel Messi will skip June 13 friendly against Singapore, says report

Lionel Messi during a training session at La Trobe University Bundoora campus in Melbourne, Australia, on June 5, 2017.
Lionel Messi during a training session at La Trobe University Bundoora campus in Melbourne, Australia, on June 5, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

SINGAPORE - While much of the buzz in the build-up to Argentina's visit to Singapore next week has centred on Lionel Messi, fans of the Barcelona superstar who had been hoping to see the five-time World Player of the Year strut his stuff here might be left disappointed.

The Clarin newspaper, which is the largest daily in Argentina, reported on Thursday that Messi, the undisputed crown jewel of Argentina's star-studded line-up, will play on Friday (June 9) against Brazil but is then expected to leave the team and return to Argentina.

If the report is true, it means Messi will not take to the National Stadium pitch on June 13, when the Lions host the world's second-ranked football team.

The Clarin said that Messi is getting married on June 30 to Antonella Roccuzzo, the mother of his two sons Thiago and Mateo, and wants to be with his family for the wedding preparations in Rosario, Argentina.

Messi's decision is "an open secret", the report claimed, before adding that the Argentina Football Association had yet to confirm the news officially.

Another player who may not make the trip to Singapore is Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi. According to the report, Otamendi is also getting married on June 16 and will also leave the team after the Brazil match.

Argentina take on Brazil in Friday's friendly at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia.

New Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli confirmed on Thursday in a press conference that Messi and Otamendi will not travel with the rest of the team to Singapore.

"Otamendi and Messi are allowed to travel (home) after the game because the two of them are getting married," Argentinian media outlets reported him as saying.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and match promoter UNICESS said in a joint statement on Thursday that they are aware of the recent media stories about Otamendi and Messi possibly not playing in Singapore.

"We are currently working with the Argentinian FA to determine the authenticity of the claims made in these reports and will provide an update as soon as we are able," they added.