A South African fan cried tears of joy after Lionel Messi signed his Barcelona shirt.
Messi came on as a second-half substitute as Barcelona beat Mamelodi Sundowns 3-1 in a friendly in Johannesburg on Wednesday as part of the Nelson Mandela Centenary celebrations.
The Argentine was rested for Sunday’s surprise loss to Levante, which denied Barca an unbeaten league campaign in their penultimate fixture, provoking criticism of coach Ernesto Valverde.
However, the forward didn’t train with his teammates on Tuesday, suggesting there could have been another reason why he didn’t play at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium.
Despite missing training, he still made the nine-hour journey to South Africa with his teammates after being named in a 23-man squad.
Supporters at the FNB Stadium -formerly known as Soccer City – grew impatient in the second half, though, when Valverde made 11 changes but left Messi on the bench.
There were cheers when he eventually began to warm up, coming on in place of B team midfielder Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta with just 15 minutes to go and with Barca already three goals ahead.