Gabonese president Ali Bongo paid Leo Messi €3.5m for Gabon visit
With Barcelona flying out to the US for the pre-seaon tour last weekend, Leo Messi made a surprise visit to Gabon, having been given extended holidays by manager Luis Enrique.
Personally invited by Gabonese President Ali Bongo to participate in some symbolic ceremonial events, Messi’s visit has become the source of some controversy.
Messi was invited out to Gabon to lay the first stone at a future Africa Cup of Nations venue, which he did dressed in a casual pair of denim shorts and t-shirt, which rather contrasted with the formal wear of the Gabonese politicians.
But comedic effect aside, the controversy had nothing to do with Messi’s get-up, but the financial reward he earned for the visit: according to France Football, the four-time Ballon D’Or was paid 3.5m Euros by Ali Bongo in exchange for his brief presence on Gabonese soil.
As well as the obscene amount of money paid for a simple visit, the sight of Messi being chauffeur-driven by Bongo around the streets of Libreville did not go down at all well with the local residents.
France Football claim that the entire charade was arranged by Messi’s former teammate Samuel Eto’o, who enjoys a close relationship with Bongo.