Lionel Messi paid Argentina’s security staff out of his own pocket during a dispute with the nation’s football federation, according to reports.
The Argentina Football Association has been in turmoil for over two years following the death of longtime chief Julio Grondona, and FIFA took control in June after president Luis Segura was charged with fraud.
Former coach Gerardo Martino reportedly was not paid for six months before the Copa America this summer, while Olympic team coach Julio Olarticoechea said in August that neither he nor his staff had received a salary.
And according to Argentine journalist Juan Pablo Varsky, the financial situation has deteriorated to the point where the national team’s security staff asked the country’s biggest star for assistance before last week’s World Cup qualifier in Brazil.
“Lionel Messi was in his room waiting for the game against Brazil in Belo Horizonte, when a knock at the door came,” Varsky said on Spanish radio.
“Two or three people appeared, all from the security team who look after the Argentine team and they said, ‘Leo, we have to talk with you. For five or six months they have not paid us. The situation is complicated, you are the captain of the team, you know us, we are asking for your help.’
Varsky said that Messi called his father to send the staff money as a way to end the dispute, but that the Barcelona player did not want his action to become public.
“There are a lot of actions he doesn’t want people to know about but I thought it pertinent to tell this because there is no reason not to, save for his anger,” Varsky said.
In June, Messi called the AFA a “disaster” following a flight delay, and three days later announced his retirement from the national team, though he has since returned.
The following month, Martino and his staff resigned, citing the “uncertainty over the designation of new authorities in the Argentine Football Association.”