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Fine dining & feeding gazelles – Inside Lionel Messi’s family trip to Saudi Arabia which led to PSG suspension and ruined new contract talks

Lionel Messi took wife Antonela Roccuzzo and his family to Saudi Arabia in a trip which looks set to end his spell at Paris Saint-Germain.

WHAT HAPPENED? The Argentine was first handed a two-week suspension without pay, before it was later reported that his three remaining games of the 2022-23 season would be his last in a PSG shirt. While the trip to the Middle East was unsolicited by the capital club, Messi – who is the Gulf state’s tourism ambassador – got up to a host of unique activities with his wife Antonela and their children, as revealed in a press release from the Saudi Tourism Authority.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: The trip included a visit to the town of Diriyah, a 300-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its traditional mud-brick architecture. It was the birthplace of the First Saudi State and is therefore considered the heart of the country. Here, Messi and his family visited the Arabian Horse Museum, where they not only interacted with purebred Arabian horses, but also came into contact with a white falcon – with the PSG forward described as being “enchanted” by the bird of prey.

AND WHAT’S MORE: That wasn’t the only wild animal visit involved in the trip. Messi and his family enjoyed feeding Arabian gazelles, which were once thought to be close to extinction but have since benefited from a rewilding and preservation programme. Away from this rich history of the Gulf state, Messi also got a taste of its future, with visits to the ultra-modern entertainment and retail districts of VIA Riyadh and Boulevard Riyadh City, as well as a fine dining experience at Al Bujari Terrace.

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Saudi Tourism Authority

Saudi Tourism Authority

Saudi Tourism Authority

WHAT NEXT FOR MESSI? Once back from his second ever trip to Saudi, the 35-year-old will be ineligible to feature until PSG’s away match at Auxurre on May 21, while a romantic return to Barcelona for the 2023-24 campaign beckons.