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 By Ian Holyman

Lionel Messi dressed 'like he were going to a zoo' - Gabon political party

Lionel Messi meets Gabon president Ali Bongo Ondimba (right).

Gabon's political opposition have accused Lionel Messi of showing a "lack of respect for standards and principles" after the Barcelona star met the African nation's president wearing denim shorts and a T-shirt.

Messi, 28, jetted into Gabon earlier this week on the first leg of a five-day visit to Africa, and met President Ali Bongo Ondimba in relaxed clothing.

A statement from the Union du Peuple Gabonais (UPG) party read: "The messiah of football arrived in Gabon like he were going to a zoo: dirty, unshaven and his hands in his pockets, looking for peanuts to throw to them!

"When you're called Lionel Messi and you're a multi-billionaire, you don't have the right to present yourself to officials of a republic, even a banana one, with your hands in the pockets of a ripped, tattered pair of shorts.

"Gabon isn't a zoo. We don't know what the Argentine came to Gabon for, but we at least have the right to denounce his negligence and his lack of respect for standards and principles. We are uneasy with Messi's attitude and his attire. Only for these reasons, linked to respect for the host country, do we condemn the footballer's indelicateness, to say the least!"

President Bongo himself drove Messi through the streets of the Gabonese capital, Libreville, in a jeep before the Argentina international laid the first stone of the stadium at Port-Gentil, which will stage Africa Nations Cup final tournament matches in 2017.

France Football reported that Messi was paid €3.5 million for the visit, which was reportedly organised by Samuel Eto'o, a confidante of President Bongo.

However, that claim was denied by Messi, who -- according to El Mundo Deportivo -- has asked France Football to rectify the report, and state that he did not receive a single cent for the visit. The Spanish paper said it had independently verified that Messi was not paid.

It reported that Messi had made the visit also as a courtesy to Alejandro Echevarria and Jaume Ferrer, both former directors of Barcelona and now leading figures in the Gabonese FA.

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