(REUTERS, AFP) - Paris St-Germain forward Lionel Messi and three other players have tested positive for Covid-19, the French Ligue 1 club said on Sunday (Jan 2).
Argentina international Messi joined PSG from boyhood club Barcelona in August and the 34-year-old has scored six goals in 16 games in all competitions for the Parisian side.
Defender Juan Bernat, back-up goalkeeper Sergio Rico and midfielder Nathan Bitumazala were the other players who returned positive tests.
PSG said in a statement that the four players were currently in isolation and subject to the appropriate coronavirus health protocols.
Messi tested positive while on holiday in his home town of Rosario in Argentina.
“He is constantly in contact with our medical service. When he is negative, he will be able to return to France,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino told a press conference.
France reported 219,126 new confirmed Covid-19 cases in a 24-hour period on Saturday, the fourth day in a row that the country has recorded more than 200,000 cases.
France has joined the United States, India, Brazil, Britain and Russia in having had more than 10 million cases.
PSG are top of the Ligue 1 standings on 46 points after 19 matches, 13 points above second-placed Nice.
They are due to travel to third-tier club Vannes on Monday for a French Cup round-of-32 match.
The Argentinian star has endured a difficult start to life in the French capital since an emotional exit from Barcelona last summer.
Messi has scored only one goal in 11 league appearances for PSG, although he has netted five times in the Champions League.
He will miss the cup tie and will likely also be sidelined for PSG's first Ligue 1 match since the winter break, at Lyon next Sunday.
Pochettino added: “We have been living with the virus for almost two years, everyone knows what to do in order not to be infected. But we can still catch it, there are things we cannot control.”
Bernat tested positive after reporting for training.
“This is the risk with which we live, on a global scale,” said Pochettino. “In football, contact is inevitable, we share the dressing room.
“The risk of contamination is there, but we take all the necessary measures to try to prevent a player from infecting others.”
PSG also said that Neymar, who suffered an ankle injury in November, is continuing treatment in his native Brazil.
“He is still scheduled to return to training in about three weeks,” the club said.