Lionel Messi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the stars who were suspended by their clubs

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After the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was given a two-week ban by PSG for his trip to Saudi Arabia, GOAL looks back on other similar situations...

Paris Saint-Germain shocked the footballing world on Tuesday when they announced that World Cup winner Lionel Messi would be suspended for two weeks without pay. It was subsequently revealed that the player had ignored his manager and club, missing training in order to take a trip to Saudi Arabia, who he has a lucrative sponsorship deal with.

PSG, determined to make an example of a player who seems increasingly likely to leave this summer, threw their Ligue 1 title hopes into slight jeopardy and banned one of their biggest names for a crucial two-week stretch.

But Messi isn't the only high-profile player to be sidelined by his own club or national team. Indeed, there is a rich history of stars who have been forced to miss time due to disciplinary reasons.

GOAL takes a look back at some of the biggest stars to have been suspended by their own team...

  1. Lionel Messi
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    Lionel Messi

    Messi jetted off to Saudi Arabia for a few days at the beginning of this week without the permission of PSG, fulfilling responsibilities associated with his lucrative sponsorship deal with the Middle Eastern country.

    Messi reportedly let the club know about the trip in advance, and manager Christophe Galtier agreed to sanction his plans if the Parisians either beat or drew with Lorient on Sunday. However, they suffered an embarrassing 3-1 loss, their third in four home games. Messi, though, went to Riyadh anyway.

    The club has subsequently banned him from entering any of their facilities, preventing him from both training and making official appearances. It is also expected to be the final straw in a drawn-out contract standoff — Messi will not be at Parc des Princes next season.

  2. Mesut Ozil

    Mesut Ozil

    Once one of the best attacking midfielders in the world, Ozil's career declined sharply towards the end of his Arsenal tenure. The Germany international left north London on poor terms, with the club refusing to register him in time for the 2020-21 season.

    He would eventually join Fenerbahce that January, but a series of injuries and poor performances derailed his time there, and Ozil was eventually suspended for the final eight league games of the season after getting into a row with his manager, Ismail Kartal.

    Ozil, for his part, insisted that he had no problem with the club, though pointed out that he hadn't been paid for the first six months of his contract. He left at the end of the season, and retired in March at just 34.

  3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
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    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

    Aubameyang has been something of a troublemaker at various points in his career. In January 2018, Borussia Dortmund suspended and fined him for failing to report for a team meeting after training. His decision not to show up, presumably associated with his desire to join Arsenal before the end of the transfer window, saw his time in Germany come to an end.

    His exit from the Gunners around four years later played out in a remarkably similar fashion. Aubameyang visited his mother in France in December 2021, and returned to training a day late. The club swiftly stripped him of the captaincy and dropped him from the squad for their next game against Southampton.

    Manager Mikel Arteta explained that he had decided to leave Aubameyang out due to a "disciplinary breach." It culminated with the star striker training alone and being banned from making any first-team appearances. He left for Barcelona within six weeks.

  4. Mario Balotelli

    Mario Balotelli

    Balotelli's career has been a source of constant entertainment, for the right and wrong reasons. The immensely talented Italian has enjoyed his fair share of impressive moments on a football pitch, but will perhaps be best remembered for his antics off it.

    It all started in 2009, when the immensely-gifted but admittedly mercurial Italian clashed with Jose Mourinho while at Inter. The manager publically criticised Balotelli for his lack of effort in training, and dropped him for a whole month in January.

    And things didn't get much better when he secured a high-profile transfer to Manchester City. From visiting a women's prison to setting off fireworks in his bathroom, Balotelli became a media sensation during his time in Manchester. He didn't face an official suspension until early 2012, though, when he was banned for four games for stomping on Scott Parker's head during a Premier League clash with Tottenham.

    He was at it again for AC Milan a year later, banned for using "intimidating and insulting" language towards the referee after his side lost to Napoli. He rounded it off in late 2014 while at Liverpool, being banned by the FA for posting an anti-Semitic picture on his Instagram.

  5. Roy Keane

    Roy Keane

    Keane was involved in his fair share of antics while at Manchester United, and developed a reputation for his hard tackling and aggressive style as a top-class midfielder.

    He made headlines in 2001 for a knee-high tackle on Manchester City's Alfie Haaland, a foul that was an apparent response to the defender accusing Keane of faking an injury four years previously. Haaland would never play a full game again, and Keane was suspended for a total of eight games for his career-ending challenge.

    But his biggest misdemeanor came not at club level, but while with the Ireland squad during the nation's 2002 World Cup campaign. The incident is shrouded in mythology, but Keane reportedly expressed his frustration at the national team's training facility in Saipan prior to the tournament, complaining about the late arrival of equipment and comparing the pitch to a car park.

    Things got even worse the day after. Keane announced on the second day of training that he intended to leave the squad with immediate effect. Manager Mick McCarthy talked him into staying, but tensions flared up again.

    It culminated shortly before the tournament started, with Keane going on an infamous 10-minute rant against the manager, concluding his fine piece of oratory by insisting that McCarthy could "stick your World Cup up your arse!"
    He was banned for nearly two years, but returned to the fold in 2004, making nine further appearances before seeing his Ireland career end for good.

  6. Carlos Tevez

    Carlos Tevez

    Tevez famously refused to come on as a substitute during Man City's Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in September 2011. The Argentine striker, the highest-paid player at the club, reportedly exchanged harsh words with manager Roberto Mancini, and was immediately banned from playing for the club for two weeks. City also fined him £500,000, at the time the biggest fine in Premier League history.

    The player insisted that the whole situation was a misunderstanding, but it came not too long after he had tried to force a move back to his native Argentina. He would eventually return to the first team in March, and accepted the hefty fine.

  7. Ousmane Dembele
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    Ousmane Dembele

    Dembele was a promising 20-year-old when he was suspended for one week by Dortmund in 2017. The French winger skipped training without permission ahead of a German Cup clash in an apparent attempt to force a move to dream club Barcelona.

    Dortmund had rejected a €130 million (£115m/$143m) bid for Dembele shortly before the incident, with the Blaugrana looking for their replacement for the recently-departed Neymar.

    Dembele would, of course, eventually get his move, with Barca paying €145m (£128m/$160m) for his services. But the winger certainly burned a bridge or two before he left the German club.

  8. Patrice Evra

    Patrice Evra

    Evra made headlines for the wrong reasons after kicking one of his team's own fans before a Europa League clash in November 2017. Prior to Marseille's game against Vitoria de Guimares, a fan heckled Evra, and encouraged the French full-back to "stop playing football", according to L'Equipe. After being taunted for nearly 30 minutes, Evra finally lashed out.

    The club swiftly suspended their left-back for one game, before French football authorities took over, and Evra was banned for a further seven months.

  9. James Maddison
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    James Maddison

    Maddison wasn't the only player to face disciplinary action from Leicester City due to breaches of Covid-19 regulations back in 2021. But he was perhaps the highest profile name to be suspended, and faced the most serious implications for missing time.

    The Leicester midfielder was on the periphery of Gareth Southgate's England squad for the delayed 2020 European Championships when he violated Premier League policy and attend a party with team-mates Hamza Choudhury and Ayoze Perez. All three were banned for one game, but Maddison's suspension saw him miss a valuable opportunity to impress Southgate ahead of the Euros.

    And while Brendan Rodgers wouldn't admit that his suspension could have any implications for a potential England call-up, Maddison was later omitted from the squad.

  10. Nicolas Anelka
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    Nicolas Anelka

    Anelka endured his fair share of controversy over a nearly 20-year playing career. It started poorly: he was suspended by Real Madrid at just 19 after failing to show up for training for three days.

    But his most infamous incident came at the 2010 World Cup. The striker led a highly-publicised mutiny against manager Raymond Domenech and was swiftly handed an 18-match ban from French national team selection. Anelka clashed with Domenech in the dressing room, allegedly telling the coach to "go f*ck yourself, you son of a wh*re" at half-time of a match against Mexico.

    He subsequently encouraged the squad to go on strike, and coordinated with a few other senior players to execute one of the biggest controversies in French football history. Les Bleus failed to make it out of their group, and Anelka never played for his country again.

  11. Joey Barton
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    Joey Barton

    Barton wasn't necessarily a model professional during his lengthy career. His time in football has included criminal charges for assault, an 18-month ban for betting on football matches, and numerous FA charges for violent conduct.

    But, remarkably, the only time he has ever been banned by his own club was in 2016, when the 34-year-old midfielder said "inappropriate things" to team-mate Andy Halliday during a loan stint at Rangers.

    The club banned him for three weeks, and he never really settled in, making five appearances in Scotland before returning to parent club Burnley, where he would play for one more forgettable season before retiring.

  12. Kevin-Prince Boateng

    Kevin-Prince Boateng

    There were a few incidents that blemished Boateng's promising career.

    He was sent home from the 2014 World Cup by Ghana for disciplinary reasons after making "vulgar verbal insults" toward team manager James Appiah. Boateng accepted the punishment, but later insisted that he was "just joking around."

    He made headlines for the wrong reasons less than a year later while enduring a dismal year at Schalke. Boateng fell out of the picture for manager Roberto Di Matteo but was handed an unlikely start after bagging a late winner against Stuttgart.

    He repaid that faith by turning in a morbid performance in a 2-0 loss against Koln. Schalke suspended him for the final two games of the season, and terminated his contract shortly after.

  13. Dani Osvaldo

    Dani Osvaldo

    Remember him? Very few do. Osvaldo was the man charged with turning around Southampton's fortunes as the club pushed for European football under Mauricio Pochettino in 2013. And the club-record signing enjoyed a solid start to his Saints career, but saw it crumble before January.

    The striker got involved in a touchline fight during the Southampton's game with Newcastle in December and earned a three-game ban from the FA for his troubles. Less than a month later, he was suspended for two weeks by the club after getting into a fight with centre-back Jose Fonte. He was subsequently sent on loan, and released in July 2015.