Gabon denies paying Messi millions

2015-07-22 13:28
Lionel Messi (

Libreville - Gabon's presidency on Tuesday denied paying four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi millions of dollars to lay the foundation stone for a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations stadium last weekend.

"The Republic of Gabon denies having paid, or even promised to pay, such a sum of money to the Argentinian international footballer Lionel Messi," the presidency said in a statement.

The 28-year-old multi-millionaire - who turned up unshaven, in a torn pair of shorts - travelled to Port-Gentil, the nation's economic capital, at the invitation of President Ali Bongo, according to the statement.

Messi "accompanied the head of state to Port-Gentil to lay the foundation stone for the town's future stadium, in the perspective of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (which Gabon is hosting)," the statement added.

Messi's presence at the event had caused controversy on social media, with many Gabonese questioning the cost of his visit to a country where over a third of the population live below the poverty line, despite the nation boasting oil riches.

The influential football weekly 'France Football' added fuel to the fire on Monday when it claimed the Barcelona maestro had received the $3.8 million for his appearance.

The controversy surrounding Messi's visit comes hot on the heels of the striker's second huge disappointment in a major final with the national side when they lost on penalties to hosts Chile in the Copa America on July 4, after losing to Germany in extra-time of last year's World Cup final.

"Good move or a communications coup for Ali Bongo?", one person wondered on Twitter, under a photograph of the Gabonese president at the wheel of a convertible Mercedes Jeep driving through the crowds in Libreville, with Messi beside him in the passenger seat.

Messi's shabby look prompted a multitude of derisory remarks on Facebook with several Gabonese posting photos of themselves in shorts and flip-flops with a suitcase in one hand and a straw hat on their heads, pretending they were en route to South America.

"Today the Argentinian president is going to drive a taxi-bus and pick us up!" one remark read.

Another image circulating on social media that caught people's imagination was a remodelled cover of the legendary comic book "Tintin in the Congo" renamed "Tintin Messi in the Gabon", with the star footballer being driven by Bongo, and Tintin's ever faithful dog 'Snowy' in the back seat.

Read more on:    gabon  |  barcelona  |  afcon 2017  |  la liga  |  lionel messi  |  soccer

What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Live scoring

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


With the Absa Premiership in full swing, who will be crowned champions when all is said and done? Will Mamelodi Sundowns defend their title? Or can Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates or Bidvest Wits mount a serious challenge? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs

Who will claim the Premier League title at the end of the 2016/17 season?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.