Paris Saint-Germain has revealed that Lionel Messi has tested positive for COVID-19 and has yet to travel back to France to join the squad after spending the holiday period in Argentina.
Messi is one of four players whom PSG identified as positive cases to start the year, alongside Juan Bernat, Sergio Rico and Nathan Bitumazala.
“Lionel Messi is in direct contact with the club’s medical team,” manager Mauricio Pochettino said in his pregame news conference.
Messi will miss the start of the 2022 schedule, beginning with Monday’s Coupe de France (French Cup) match against Vannes. Pochettino indicated it’s still in the air whether Messi can be back in France and ready to play against rival Lyon on Jan. 9 in the first league match of 2022.
“We still don’t know whether he’ll play against Lyon. As long as his tests are not negative, he will not be able to travel to France, so we’ll need to wait.”
Argentine reporter Gaston Edul reports that Messi tested positive several days before the actual PSG announcement. Apparently, he’s feeling well and should be able to travel to Paris “in a few hours.”
The team is already without injured Brazilian star Neymar, who has been granted permission to remain in Brazil through Jan. 9, with a return to training projected to come in three weeks.
Which PSG matches will Messi miss?
Messi definitely won’t play in Monday’s match at Vannes OC in the French Cup Round of 32, but it’s a match that PSG should be able to handle without him. Vannes OC currently finds itself in midtable of the French fourth division standings.
PSG supporters also won’t be too concerned about Messi potentially missing out on the match against Lyon on Jan. 9, since PSG has a comfortable 13-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 standings at the halfway point of the season.
After the road trip to Lyon, PSG will have back-to-back home matches in Ligue 1 action against Stade Brestois (Jan. 15) and Stade de Reims (Jan. 23).
The 34-year-old Messi has six goals and five assists for PSG in his first 16 appearances for the club since joining in the summer as a free agent. Five of his six goals came in the UEFA Champions League, and all five assists came in Ligue 1 play.
It goes without saying the matches that really matter for PSG will be the Round of 16 series against Spanish giant Real Madrid beginning on Feb. 15 in Paris. The second leg takes place on March 9 in Spain. PSG acquired Messi in the hope he could help the club get over the hump and win its first Champions League title.
Why was Messi in Argentina?
After his first few months settling in with PSG in Paris, Messi spent the 2021 year-end holidays in Argentina. The last PSG match he featured in was the 1-1 draw against Lorient on Dec. 22, during which Messi and his PSG teammates struggled without Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
Messi later traveled to his native city of Rosario in Argentina, where videos and photos shared on social media showed him relaxing with family.
There were alarm bells set off among media outlets in Argentina when it was discovered Messi wasn’t on the private jet that took PSG teammates and Argentine compatriots Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes back to Paris after the holiday break.
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