Soccer superstar Lionel Messi may be headed to Israel in November, this time wearing his Barcelona team colors, according to a Thursday report by Army Radio.
Following the cancellation of a friendly match he was supposed to play with the Argentinian national team against Israel, efforts have been underway to bring him to Israel for an exhibition match.
Comtecsport, which had organized the canceled Argentina-Israel friendly, is now in negotiations to bring Messi’s Barcelona FC team to Israel for a match against Atletico Madrid, the report said.
The match is reportedly scheduled for November and will be held in Sammy Ofer Stadium, in Haifa, avoiding the controversies that led to the last-minute cancellation of the Argentina match.
In addition to Messi, Barcelona features several other famous players, including Luis Suárez and Philippe Coutinho. The team’s Samuel Umtiti will be playing in the World Cup final Sunday for France alongside Atletico Madrid’s Lucas Hernández and Antoine Griezmann, while Madrid’s Šime Vrsaljko and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitić will play for Croatia.
Army Radio said the details were set to be finalized in the coming week.
Argentina, finalists in the 2014 World Cup, were knocked out in the first round in the current tournament in Russia.
Messi and Argentina were to have played Israel in Jerusalem’s Teddy Koleck Stadium on June 9, as a final warm-up before the 2018 World Cup. However, the match was scratched following a Palestinian pressure campaign.
The cancellation led to political fallout, with Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev accused of moving the match from Haifa, where it was originally to be held, to Jerusalem as a PR move. Opposition lawmakers also claimed that money changed hands to ensure photo opportunities for Regev, while the state comptroller’s office opened a probe into the reservation of many of the tickets to the friendly for sponsors and other bodies.