Mining magnate Patrice Motsepe paid Spanish powerhouses Barcelona 3-million Euros (almost R45-million) to make the one-day trip to South Africa to play against Mamelodi Sundowns at FNB Stadium on Wednesday night‚ it has emerged.
This figure was revealed by the Spanish press and they reported that it is outside the costs for the chartered plane that left Barcelona on Tuesday night with business class seating for the 21 players and the rest of the staff.
The cost of the trip to SA had been the subject of furious speculation for days and some reports suggested that Motsepe paid around R105m to convince Barcelona to come to SA.
Argentina superstar Lionel Messi’s involvement in the Nelson Mandela Centenary Cup encounter against Sundowns had also been the subject of fierce speculation and some doubted that he would make the trip to SA.
It has since emerged that Messi suffered an injury scare on Tuesday but still got on the overnight plane that brought the Barcelona squad into Johannesburg on Wednesday.
He did not train with the rest of the squad in the afternoon session at the Ciutat Esportiva‚ doing individual exercises instead‚ before they all left for the airport and the flight to South Africa‚ according to the Barcelona-aligned sports daily El Mundo Deportivo.
Coach Ernesto Valverde said he did not want to take any risks with players ahead of the World Cup in Russia but travelled with a full strength squad as required by the contract for the game against Sundowns.
The Barcelona jet will sit at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday before taking off again for the return flight at midnight‚ with the Barca squad due back home at 9am local time on Thursday morning.
Only injured defender Samiel Umtiti‚ who is a French international of Cameroonian descent‚ and Belgian back Thomas Vermaelen were left behind.
Barcelona are expected to put veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta at centre stage as he makes his penultimate appearance for the club at the same venue where he scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final.
Iniesta is leaving Barca at the end of the season and after Wednesday’s game will feature for Barca for the last time in their final game of the La Liga seaon at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday.