Messi ‘wanted to fight me’ and had ‘face of the devil,’ Monterrey coach says in audio leak

Lionel Messi’s return to action Saturday isn’t a coincidence. The Inter Miami star apparently has a score to settle, and he wants to do it on the pitch against LIGA MX club Monterrey in Mexico on Wednesday.

Messi “had the face of the devil” and “wanted to fight me,” Monterrey assistant coach Nico Sánchez said in an audio clip he says was shared with close friends before it was leaked publicly Friday, leading to a video apology. The audio stems from a confrontation in the locker room area after Monterrey beat Inter Miami 2-1 without Messi last Wednesday in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal matchup.

Messi wanted to fight me,” Sánchez said in the audio leaked by Fox Sports Mexico. “I don't think he wanted to hit me because he would have done it. He had me a centimeter away. He put his fist next to my face. I think he was looking for my reaction more than hitting me.”

Sánchez also said this about Messi: “The dwarf was possessed. He had the face of the devil.”

Sánchez reiterated “there was no fights, just pure discussion.” He also accused Inter Miami of deleting video footage of the altercation. “The videos leave them in a bad light, they deleted them.”

Sánchez apologized to Inter Miami coach Tata Martino, who Sánchez called an expletive — without much of an apology to Messi.

Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi has not played in a match since March 13.
Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi has not played in a match since March 13.

Inter Miami declined comment when reached by USA TODAY Sports on Saturday, following Sánchez’s remarks.

It appears the fallout has reignited the fire in Messi, who will make his return from a right hamstring injury Saturday against Colorado at 7:30 p.m. at Chase Stadium — an ideal matchup to prepare for Wednesday’s second leg at Monterrey’s BBVA Stadium.

How to watch Inter Miami vs. Colorado live stream?

Inter Miami and Colorado kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The match can be live streamed via MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

What happened during Inter Miami, Monterrey confrontation?

Messi and other members of Inter Miami caused a stir by confronting Monterrey team members, including coach Fernando Ortiz for his pregame comments, regarding favoritism for Messi and Inter Miami. Inter Miami has not commented on the matter, while Monterrey reported the confrontation to Concacaf after the game.

The altercation happened after Messi, Martino, Luis Suárez and Jordi Alba reportedly confronted referees in the stadium tunnel after the match. The locker rooms for both teams face each other in a narrow hallway, fueling the tension.

The Monterrey coach said before the first game last Wednesday: “Everything that surrounds Messi can lead to sporting and non-sporting decisions. I am concerned about the environment, football is business, business does not go the way of Monterrey.”

It appears the referees took notice: Inter Miami had six yellow cards during the match, including two to David Ruiz, who was ejected in the 66th minute, forcing Miami to finish the match with 10 players on the field. Monterrey – which finished with just three yellow cards – scored twice after Ruiz’s ejection.

What did Nico Sánchez say in his apology to Inter Miami?

“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.”

When will Messi play again? Messi to return Saturday vs. Colorado

Messi, the Argentine World Cup champion and eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, will play for the first time since March 13.

Messi came off in the 50th minute against Nashville SC in the second leg of their Champions Cup Round of 16 bout on March 13.

Messi was also seen having his right hamstring massaged by trainers during the first leg on March 7 — an indication he’s been dealing with the injury longer than initially reported.

Messi has played in five games with five goals and two assists, but has missed five games across all competitions this season.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What did Monterrey’s Nico Sánchez say about Lionel Messi, Inter Miami?