Barcelona superstars Samuel Umtiti, left, Lionel Messi, centre, and Gerard Pique are all likely to be given some game time against Sundowns at FNB Stadium in Wednesday’s sold-out friendly. Picture: REUTERS
Barcelona superstars Samuel Umtiti, left, Lionel Messi, centre, and Gerard Pique are all likely to be given some game time against Sundowns at FNB Stadium in Wednesday’s sold-out friendly. Picture: REUTERS

Is Lionel Messi coming to SA or is he not? That is the big question ahead of Wednesday’s friendly between Mamelodi Sundowns and Barcelona.

Barcelona are yet to confirm their squad for the Nelson Mandela Centenary Cup at FNB Stadium, but indications are that their Argentinean superstar will make the trip to SA.

The teams have not given a definitive answer to questions about Messi’s availability for this clash but he is expected to play some part in a match that has been listed by Barcelona as part of their training schedule for the week. It also does not help that Sundowns officials are reluctant to even mention Messi’s name in the build-up to the friendly.

"Barcelona have agreed to bring their best possible squad for this match‚" Sundowns spokesman Thulani Thuswa said on Tuesday.

Insiders at the club said Messi is part of the package that was agreed to during the negotiations for the match and he will be in SA with superstars such as Samuel Umtiti, Philippe Coutinho‚ Ousmane Dembélé‚ Luis Suárez‚ Sergio Busquets‚ Gerard Piqué and Jordi Alba.

"The last time Barcelona were in SA to play against Sundowns [2007]‚ Ronaldinho was here and he was the biggest star in the world at that time‚" said an insider. "He was part of the deal and it is the same with Messi now. How long he is going to play is the coach’s decision."

Sundowns president Patrice Motsepe could not confirm the names of the Barcelona players who will travel to SA when he announced the match last week. "It is still confidential information at the moment‚ but there is a contract in place that stipulates which players will be coming for this fixture‚" he said at the time.

Messi was rested by manager Ernesto Valverde last weekend when Barcelona lost 5-4 to Levante in their penultimate La Liga match of the season, which saw ambitions of ending the campaign unbeaten go up in smoke.

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