Lionel Messi was included in the 21-man Barcelona team that arrived in Johannesburg on Wednesday for the friendly against Mamelodi Sundowns at Soccer City as part of the centenary celebration of South African icon Nelson Mandela.
Messi is expected to make just a cameo appearance for the Blaugrana as coach Ernesto Valverde picked a full strength squad, leaving only the injured Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen behind and adding three players from the youth academy to the squad – Alena, Ruiz de Galarreta and Cuenca.
Five-time ballon d’Or winner Messi sat out training in Barcelona on Tuesday as a precaution before the squad flew overnight on a chartered jet directly from Barcelona to Johannesburg.
The Spanish double winners will leave again for Spain after the match with a midnight departure scheduled from OR Tambo Airport in preparation for this weekend’s La Liga final game against Real Sociedad.
The match is expected to be packed with emptions as it will be captain Andres Iniesta’s final appearance for the club after over 16 years of unparalleled success.
Barca’s Complete Squad
1-Ter Stegen, 2-Semedo, 3-Pique, 4-Rakitic, 5-Sergio Busquets, 6-Denis Suarez, 8-Andres Iniesta, 9-Luis Suarez, 10-Lionel Messi, 11-Dembele, 13-Jasper Cillessen, 14-Coutinho, 15-Paulinho, 17-Paco Alcacer, 18-Jordi Alba, 19-Lucas Digne, 20-Sergi Roberto, 21-Andre Gomes, 22-Aleix Vidal, 24-Yerry Mina, 26-Alena, 40-Ruiz de Galarreta, 41-Jorge Cuenca.