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Monterrey coach apologizes after saying Lionel Messi had ‘the face of the devil’ and wanted to fight him

In Sports
April 07, 2024
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - APRIL 03: Lionel Messi #10 of Inter Miami looks on from the sidelines during the first half in the game against Monterrey in the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions Cup - Leg One at Chase Stadium on April 03, 2024 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
Lionel Messi should be available the next time Inter Miami faces Monterrey. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Inter Miami and Monterrey have a score to settle on Wednesday, and it goes beyond the second leg of their Concacaf Champions Cup matchup. It centers around, of course, Lionel Messi.

Monterrey assistant coach Nico Sánchez issued an apology Friday after audio leaked of him claiming Messi wanted to fight him following Monterrey’s 2-1 win last Wednesday. Per USA Today, there was a confrontation involving Messi, some of his Miami teammates and coach Tata Martino in the Monterrey locker room after the game.

Messi has not played in a match since March 13 due to a right hamstring injury.

Messi’s squad reportedly confronted both the referees over a contentious game in which Miami was issued six yellow cards — two to David Ruiz, resulting in his ejection — and Monterrey coach Fernando Ortiz for pregame comments implying there was a risk of favoritism toward Miami due to Messi’s fame.

Audio of Sánchez recounting the incident as he saw it leaked via Fox Sports two days later. Per a translation of the comments, he claimed Messi approached him at the locker room after castigating the refs, using some colorful language:

“The dwarf was possessed, he had the face of the devil. He put his fist next to my face and says ‘who do you think you are?’ But because I didn’t look at him, I was looking away, I never answered back, it made things worse.

“And Tata Martino, what a poor dummy, I had him in front of me telling me, ‘Fool, you going to cry? Fool you going to cry?’ What a dummy! All those videos, they probably erased them all because it leaves them looking bad. What they did was really serious. They want to dirty the pitch.”

That last comment implies Inter Miami, which hosted the match, deleted video of the incident.

Soon after the leak, Sánchez posted a video of himself addressing his comments, apologizing for getting angry and using a disrespectful name for Martino. He did not apologize for what he called Messi, via a translation from USA Today:

“I am present with this video to talk about this audio that went viral today. I could hide with a text or the club could act for me, but I preferred to choose this means to show my face, and the words can be seen coming out of my mouth. I made the audio. I explain what happens on Wednesday in the mixed zone outside the locker room. Just as I detailed in the audio, which I sent to my intimate or private circle. But far from getting angry with them, it is my mistake … it will serve as a lesson for me,” Sánchez said.

“I understand that when the audio is made public. Many people feel offended or hurt. Since I do not know the Inter coach, Gerardo Martino, and I referred to him in a disrespectful manner, and I apologize. I am as Argentine as all of them and I will always defend my club. I’m here to show my face and take charge.”

Meanwhile, Inter Miami’s side has downplayed the incident, with assistant coach Javi Morales saying the focus should remain on the field.

The two sides are now set to meet again next week, with a major change in Miami’s favor: Messi is returning to the field Saturday against the Colorado Rapids and will likely be available to help his team dig out of a 2-1 hole Wednesday.

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