…By Malcolm Hemsworth for TDPel Media.
Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier sought to deflect questions about Lionel Messi’s suspension by the French club as he spoke to reporters on Friday, insisting the decision was not his to take in the first place.
“I was informed at the beginning of the week by management about the decision to suspend Leo. Once they had let me know, I took the responsibility to not comment as a paid member of staff of the club,” Galtier said during a press conference at PSG’s training ground Paris.
“It wasn’t my decision to take. I was informed of the decision and I defer to it.”
Messi was suspended by the Qatar-owned club after failing to turn up for training on Monday and instead travelling to Saudi Arabia without their permission to fulfil commitments as part of a contract with the country’s tourist office.
Various media in France have said that Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain will be banned from playing and training for two weeks, although AFP has not been able to confirm those reports.
Nevertheless, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is set to play no part in Sunday’s game at relegation-threatened Troyes.
After that, PSG will have just four more matches remaining this season, while Messi’s contract is due to expire in June.
“We will see when Leo comes back. We will see what happens. Obviously there will be discussions with the club as a whole but also with Leo because this concerns him first and foremost,” Galtier added when asked if Messi would play for the team again.
Messi’s suspension drew criticism from one of Galtier’s counterparts in France.
Antoine Kombouare, the current Nantes coach who used to play for PSG and was the club’s first coach of the Qatar era, hit out at the decision to prevent the former Barcelona star from playing.
“It’s shameful. I don’t care what is happening on the pitch or about PSG’s problems. I am in love with the player. Messi shouldn’t be touched,” he said.
PSG fans angry at the way the club has been run in recent seasons under Qatari ownership this week protested in front of their offices and even gathered outside Neymar’s home in the Paris suburb of Bougival to voice their discontent.
The club have boosted security at their training ground and at the homes of Messi and Neymar as a result.
“I can understand the anger and the disappointment of our supporters. I can also understand why they might come and protest here at our workplace or in front of the club’s offices,” Galtier said.
“I can understand that they might protest after a match at the Parc des Princes, but I cannot accept that they might do so at anyone’s house, whether it might be Neymar or someone else, because things could spill over and we see that a lot at the moment in the news.”
Beaten 3-1 at home by Lorient last weekend, PSG are five points clear at the top from Marseille before their trip to Troyes.
Beyond Messi’s ban they have a host of selection problems, with left-back Nuno Mendes having been ruled out for the rest of the campaign and right-back Achraf Hakimi suspended.
Neymar, Presnel Kimpembe and Nordi Mukiele are also on the sidelines.
“We are five points clear but the teams in second and third have a lot of points and are both in great form. We cannot afford to relax,” Galtier insisted.