Laporta: I Hoped Messi Would Offer To Play For Free

In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 ex-Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Barcelona president Joan Laporta admitted on Friday he hoped Lionel Messi would change his mind about leaving the club and offer to play for free.

Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain in August after Barca decided not to renew the Argentinian’s contract due to La Liga’s strict salary limits.

“There came a time when both parties saw that it would not be possible. There was disappointment on both sides,” Laporta told Catalan radio station RAC1.

“He wanted to stay but they also had a lot of pressure because of the offer they had. They knew if he didn’t stay, he would go to PSG.”

Laporta continued: “I hoped Messi would do a u-turn and he would say he would play for free.

“I would have liked that and I would have been all for it. It is my understanding La Liga would have accepted it. But we cannot ask a player of Messi’s stature to do this.”

Laporta reiterated the club’s atrocious financial situation meant they were unable to keep Messi on the same terms.

Barca recorded losses of 481 million euros ($556 million) last season, with a gross debt of 1.35 billion euros.

“We had the conclusions of the audit (on Wednesday) and the investment in Leo would have put us at risk,” said Laporta, who also suggested Barcelona could yet sign up to a deal with investment fund CVC Capital Partners.

La Liga told Barca in August they could keep Messi if they agreed to the deal, which involved the league selling 10 percent of the commercial business, including television rights, for the next 50 years, in exchange for 2.7 billion euros.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao rejected the offer.

“We do not need more debt,” said Laporta. “I understand La Liga clubs are suffering. We have not ruled ourselves out of this operation but they have to change it. They are trying to reformulate the deal.”

Laporta also confirmed his support for Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman, whose future has been uncertain in recent weeks.

“I think he deserves a margin of confidence,” said Laporta. “I asked him if he trusted the team and he said, ‘Of course I trust them. I need to get the injured players back’. He wants to continue at all costs and show this team is competitive.”

AFP

Barcelona Were ‘Technically Bankrupt’ In March, Says CEO

File photo: Spanish lawyer Jorge Navarro leaves the offices of the Barcelona Football Club on March 01, 2021 in Barcelona during a police operation inside the building.  LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona chief executive Ferran Reverter said Wednesday the club was “technically bankrupt” when Joan Laporta took over as president in March, and would have been “dissolved” if it was a public limited company.

The Spanish giant’s financial woes were laid bare in August when they were forced to allow Lionel Messi to join Paris Saint-Germain after admitting they could no longer afford to keep the six-time world player of the year.

The new board inherited debts of 1.35 billion euros ($1.56 billion) and a bloated first-team payroll as Laporta returned for a second spell as president following the resignation of Josep Maria Bartomeu.

“If the club had been a PLC (public limited company) it would have been dissolved,” Reverter revealed during a news conference in which he outlined the results of an audit carried out by accountancy group Deloitte.

“In March 2021, we were in a situation of technical bankruptcy, but as a sports association we were able to refinance the debt,” explained Reverter, revealing the club had “difficulties in paying salaries” due to “almost zero cash flow”.

To tide the club over in the short term, officials took out a temporary loan of 80 million euros ($92 million) “to cover the treasury obligations for a period of 90 days”, and refinanced a debt of 595 million euros.

Barcelona have confirmed losses of 481 million euros for last season, which was even higher than the club anticipated.

According to Reverter, the audit, which studied the club’s finances from 2018/19 until March 2021, showed there had been “serious administrative deficiencies” and that directors “bought players by being disconnected from reality”.

Bartomeu was forced to resign in October last year following mounting pressure from fans and his public falling-out with Messi over the Argentine’s wish to leave the club.

“When they were signing players nobody considered if they could pay for them. The same night that (Antoine) Griezmann was signed, they realised that there was no money for him, and they had to ask for more funds.”

Griezmann left to re-join Atletico Madrid on loan at the start of this season.

Between 2016 and 2020, Barca’s wage bill soared by 61 percent, rising from 471 million euros to 759 million euros, Reverter added. The total has since been slashed by 155 million by the new management.

Reverter also pointed out the unusually high rates of commissions paid to intermediaries involved in player transfers of “between 20 and 30 percent”.

Yet despite the club’s financial struggles, Barca hope to finish this season with a profit of five million euros.

AFP

Benfica Humiliate Barcelona, Compound Koeman’s Misery


Benfica’s Portuguese midfielder Rafa Silva (R) celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League first round group E footbal match between Benfica and Barcelona at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on September 29, 2021. PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Barcelona suffered more European humiliation on Wednesday after a 3-0 defeat by Benfica left them in serious danger of failing to make it out of their Champions League group.

A hammering in Lisbon, which saw Darwin Nunez score twice, including a second-half penalty, also delivered another heavy blow to Ronald Koeman’s hopes of staying on as Barca coach.

Nunez’s double and a smart finish from Rafa Silva consigned Koeman’s team to a second consecutive 3-0 loss in Group E, after they were thrashed by the same scoreline at the hands of Bayern Munich earlier this month.

Koeman’s tactics will again come under scrutiny, with Gerard Pique substituted after just 33 minutes, seemingly to avoid picking up another yellow card, only for Eric Garcia to be sent off late on for a second booking.

Frenkie de Jong, Barcelona’s most creative player for the first half an hour, was also shifted into central defence to replace the departing Pique.

It is the first time since 2000 that Barcelona have lost back-to-back group games in the Champions League, which was also the last time the club failed to make the tournament’s knock-out stage.

They have a mountain to climb now to avoid the same fate, sitting bottom of the table, with Benfica four points ahead in second and a crunch game at home to Dynamo Kiev to come next month.

Whether Koeman is still in charge for that game remains to be seen given his future is not even secure for this weekend, when Barcelona play at Spanish champions Atletico Madrid in La Liga.

The club might view the upcoming international break as the more logical time to make a change but despite Koeman’s pleas for support, and perspective, his team have now won only one of their last five games and it appears a matter of when, not if.

Dire Financial Problems


Benfica’s Spanish defender Alex Grimaldo controls le ball during the UEFA Champions League first round group E footbal match between Benfica and Barcelona at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on September 29, 2021. PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Earlier on Wednesday, La Liga had laid bare Barcelona’s dire financial problems by slashing their spending limit for this season to 97 million euros ($112.48 million), the seventh highest in La Liga. But even in adversity there is a base-line level of performance and Koeman is currently not managing to reach it.

Benfica were dynamite on the break all night but they needed only 135 seconds to take the lead as Nunez ran at Garcia from the left and was allowed to dart inside and strike the ball inside the near post.

Barcelona had chances to equalise as Pedri arrowed a brilliant through-ball for Frenkie de Jong, who squared for his teammate Luuk de Jong, but he was denied by a brilliant block six yards out.

Frenkie de Jong laid another chance on a plate for his namesake but again the opportunity went begging, with the midfielder’s attacking contributions suddenly cut short in the 33rd minute, when Pique went off.

Benfica looked the more likely to score again in the second half as Marc-Andre ter Stegen rushed out but failed to get to the ball first. Nunez rounded the goalkeeper but curled against the outside of the post from 40 yards.

Koeman brought on the 19-year-old Nico Gonzalez, Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati in the 67th minute but in the 68th, Benfica made it two. Joao Mario played a neat one-two with Roman Yaremchuk, who hit Ter Stegen only for Silva to sweep in the rebound.

A Sergino Dest handball was picked up by VAR, allowing Nunez to make it three from the spot, before Garcia completed a humbling night for Barcelona by being sent off with three minutes left.

AFP

Under-Pressure Koeman Gets Two Match Ban After Red Card

In this file photo taken on October 13, 2019 Netherlands' coach Ronald Koeman looks on prior to the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Belarus and the Netherlands in Minsk. Sergei GAPON / AFP
In this file photo taken on October 13, 2019 ex-Netherlands’ coach Ronald Koeman looks on prior to the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Belarus and the Netherlands in Minsk. Sergei GAPON / AFP

 

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman on Friday escaped with the minimum two-match ban as punishment for his red card the previous evening when Barcelona drew 0-0 at Cadiz.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) disciplinary opted to hand the Dutchman the shortest permitted suspension after his sending off in the final minute for arguing with officials as 10-man Barcelona limped to a goalless draw.

Referee Carlos del Cerro Grande wrote in his report that Koeman was sent off for “protesting to the fourth official in an ostentatious manner, with his arms raised, shouting and leaving the technical area, complaining: ‘hey, the referee has to whistle, the referee has to whistle, dammit, he has to whistle’ even though he had already been warned by the fourth official to stop protesting at the referee’s decisions”.

Koeman wanted play stopped because there were two balls on the pitch.

“In this country you get sent off for nothing,” Koeman told the press conference after the match, explaining that “it was for telling the fourth official that there was a second ball on the pitch, that he had to stop the game.”

RELATED: Lewandowski Nets Brace As Bayern Outplay Barcelona Again

Koeman is under pressure because Barcelona are already seven points behind Liga leaders Real Madrid, although they have a game in hand, and have scored ust five goals in five league matches.

He will not be able to sit on the bench on Sunday as Barcelona host Levante and on October 2 when Barcelona visit champions Atletico Madrid.

The disciplinary committee also banned midfielder Frenkie de Jong for one match.

The Dutchman was sent off in 65th minute for his second yellow card in four minutes.

AFP

Lewandowski Nets Brace As Bayern Outplay Barcelona Again

Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski (9) scores a goal during the UEFA Champions League first-round group E football match against Barcelona at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 14, 2021. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Bayern Munich gave Barcelona a brutal demonstration of how far the Catalan club has fallen by strolling to a 3-0 win in the Champions League on Tuesday, with Robert Lewandowski scoring twice in a rout at Camp Nou.

Without Lionel Messi for a first European campaign since 2003, Barca were outplayed by Bayern, who might have scored more but in the end, settled for three thanks to Thomas Mueller’s deflected opener and Lewandowski’s double.

When Lewandowski made it two before the hour, the possibility of another humiliation in the mould of last year’s 8-2 defeat by the same opponents in Lisbon felt very real.

Instead, Bayern delivered perhaps an even louder message about the gulf in class by easing off in the latter stages, as Barca’s fans expressed their anger, dismay, and finally a sense of resignation.

Sergi Roberto was on the end of the loudest whistles from the home supporters and it was impossible not to wonder if the criticism came in part from disappointment at the lack of progress down the right flank, where Messi once created so much.

Ronald Koeman’s position has come under scrutiny in recent weeks and his 5-3-2 formation, which defies Barcelona’s attacking traditions, will not have strengthened his hand.

Yet the bottom line here was the lack of quality in the Barcelona line-up, coming after their turbulent summer of sales, which was inferior to Bayern’s in every department.

Mueller has scored seven goals in six appearances now against the Catalans while Lewandowski has scored in 18 consecutive matches.

Julian Nagelsmann’s strong start as the coach continues – this was a sixth consecutive victory – but he will know Bayern will face tougher Champions League opposition than this.

In true underdog fashion, Barca flew into Bayern early on, eager to impress themselves physically on an opponent they perhaps knew would be technically superior.

The crowd were in on it too, cheering as Luuk de Jong outmuscled Alphonso Davies and Sergi Roberto held off Dayot Upamecano.

There was then a hint of a chance when Memphis Depay slid De Jong but he lacked the speed to capitalise and Benjamin Pavard cleared.

The early enthusiasm could only sustain Barcelona so long and as the game settled, gradually Bayern took control.

Leroy Sane volleyed at Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Gerard Pique had to make a last-ditch challenge to stop Mueller.

But Bayern’s authority was set, even if their opening goal owed a lot to fortune, Mueller unleashing from 30 yards and the ball diverting off the back of Eric Garcia, wrongfooting Ter Stegen and creeping inside the post.

Barca wilted before half-time, the atmosphere turning sour as passes went astray and attacks broke down.

A renewed push after half-time saw Sergio Busquets drive wide but Bayern came again.

Sane hit the right foot of Ter Stegen from eight yards and then Lewandowski made it two, studding the ball into an open goal after the Barca keeper committed to Jamal Musiala’s shot that cannoned off the post.

Under threat of another thrashing, Koeman took off Sergi Roberto and Busquets, to a chorus of whistles from the home fans. The 18-year-old Yusuf Demir and a 17-year-old Gavi came on.

Yet Bayern spared Barca a humiliation, waltzing through for one more late on as Lewandowski danced through a sprawl of bodies and fired with five minutes left. For Barca, three felt like a relief.

Barcelona Face Bayern Again Without Messi

File photo: Ex-Barcelona Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

“We need change from top to bottom,” Gerard Pique said but even he could not have predicted what followed as Barcelona, without Lionel Messi, reunite with Bayern Munich on Tuesday, a year on from the defeat that changed everything.

After the 8-2 loss by Bayern in the Champions League quarter-finals, Pique said Barca needed change of all kinds, “not just players and coaches, but structurally”, insisting “new blood” was needed. “We are not able to compete in Europe,” he said.

The humiliation felt like rock bottom, a brutal confirmation of mediocrity delivered by a club about to reach the summit of Europe against one no longer anywhere near it.

Pique demanded revolution but little has improved in the year since, the club’s financial horrors laid bare by Messi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain, which has been harder to stomach for the fans than any thrashing on the pitch.

Ten days after the loss in Lisbon, Messi sent Barcelona the burofax stating his desire to leave and while he insisted it had nothing to do with the Bayern defeat, he also said they “had given off a very bad image. It was wrong.”

And so for the first time in almost two decades, Barca begin a Champions League campaign this week without their best ever player, who registered his first Champions League goal in 2005 and went on to score 120 in 149 games for them, against 41 different opponents, including seven hat-tricks.

Messi won four Champions Leagues in 10 years at Camp Nou but none in his last six and while he was far from blameless, every failure enhanced the sense of a historic career being wasted.

Whether the theory Messi’s absence will liberate others has merit remains to be seen but there is certainly less pressure now to succeed, even less than last season, when a gallant draw with PSG in the second leg came as something of a relief after a 4-1 loss in the first.

RELATED: 11 Outstanding Records Held By Lionel Messi

Messi Ends Trophy Drought As Argentina Beat Brazil To Win Copa America

Memphis Face of New Era? 

File photo:  Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his team’s sixth goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

Dampened expectations could at least offer a more forgiving platform for Barca’s youngsters to thrive and others, like Memphis Depay and Ousmane Dembele, to step forward.

“Memphis can mark a new era at Barca,” said Koeman this week. “He has the things you need to be a success here: personality and character.”

If new blood was needed, Koeman has helped accelerate the transition as the likes of Pedri, Frenkie de Jong, Sergino Dest and Ronald Araujo have risen in prominence, ready perhaps to lead themselves.

There have been departures too, 20 of them since the final whistle blew in Lisbon, not to mention the coach, with Quique Setien being swiftly replaced by Koeman. Five of those that played against Bayern in 2020 have gone.

It was the board Pique was targeting most and there has been wholesale change there as well, with Joan Laporta taking over as president and installing Mateu Alemany as the new director of football.

But Laporta’s first six months has been so consumed by keeping the club afloat, there have been precious few decisions aimed at taking it forward.

Last month, Laporta indicated the club’s total debts amounted to 1.35 billion euros, with player salaries 103 per cent of income, a figure now closer to 80 per cent after the transfer window. Saving, not improving, has been the priority.

The result is perhaps a club with better hopes for the future but a team that looks even worse than the one before and it would be a huge surprise if Barcelona troubled either the Champions League’s latter stages or primary contenders.

When Pique said they were “no longer able to compete in Europe” last year, there was anger in his voice but there is more of an acceptance now, an awareness that for now the pinnacle is almost certainly out of reach.

For Barcelona, the worst may be over but it could be a while before the good times return.

AFP

Messi Set For PSG Debut

Messi is expected to lead PSG’s push for a first Champions League title. Photo: Instagram/PSG

 

Lionel Messi was named in the Paris Saint-Germain squad for the first time on Sunday morning suggesting the breathless wait for his Ligue 1 debut could end at Reims.

Coach Mauricio Pochettino had indicated on Saturday that all three of PSG’s golden trio would be in his squad for the first time.

On Sunday he made that official, naming Neymar, who also has yet to play this season and Kylian Mbappe in his squad for the trip to Reims for the evening match.

With two days left in the transfer window, this could be the only time the three stars play as team-mates.

While Messi, who joined PSG on August 10, is poised to say hello to French football, Mbappe could be bidding it adieu.

The World Cup winner’s future is still uncertain after Real Madrid reportedly made a bid to buy him. The rumoured fee would be the biggest paid for a player by any club other than PSG.

PSG are taking 22 players to Reims, but only 11 starts with nine more on the bench.

On Saturday Pochettino said Messi was “very motivated” to play.

READ ALSO: Ten-man Chelsea Hold Liverpool At Anfield

(From L) Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain’s Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi, and Paris Saint-Germain’s Spanish midfielder Pablo Sarabia attend a training session at the Camp des Loges Paris Saint-Germain football club’s training ground in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on August 13, 2021. (Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP)

 

Since it seemed unlikely the coach would take the six-time Ballon D’Or winner along and not put him on the team sheet, the question that remained tantalizingly unanswered was: whether Messi would start at the Stade Auguste-Delaune, or would he tease from the substitutes’ bench?

Messi and Neymar both missed the first two league games as they worked their way to match fitness after demanding summers. They met in the Copa America final on July 10 in Brazil as Argentina won to earn Messi his first international trophy.

They will be reunited as team-mates for the first time since PSG broke the bank to attract Neymar for Barcelona in 2017.

The possible symbolism of Messi’s first official appearance for PSG in Reims, where French kings were traditionally crowned, was not lost on sports daily L’Equipe.

“Leo I, a king in Reims”, it wrote on its front page declaring his possible selection a “coronation”.

Le Parisien pointed to the local club’s history as home to “three of the most beautiful artists of this game”. A Reims squad led by Just Fontaine and Raymond Kopa reached the first-ever European Cup final in 1956.

AFP

‘Many Moments Of Joy:’ Ronaldinho Wishes Messi Well At PSG


Argentinian football player Lionel Messi arrives at the Royal Monceau hotel in Paris on August 10, 2021, as the football legend is expected to sign an initial two-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain football club following his departure from boyhood club Barcelona. Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

 

Former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Ronaldinho wished Lionel Messi “many moments of joy” on Tuesday after the Argentina attacker joined the French club from the La Liga giants.

Earlier PSG announced 34-year-old Messi had signed a two-year deal with the club, making the opposite move to the one the former Brazil playmaker Ronaldinho made in 2003.

Ronaldinho, who won his only Ballon d’Or at the Camp Nou in 2005, predicted a first Champions League success for the Qatari-owned Parisians with former Real Madrid and Spain captain Sergio Ramos also heading to the French capital.

Messi and Ronaldinho played together at Barca between 2004 and 2008.

“It’s a great joy to have played in these two clubs and now see my friend wearing this shirt, may there be many moments of joy Leo!” he said on Twitter.

“I’m also very happy with my partner @sergioramos on the team and a super cast, I’m feeling Champions,” he added.

READ ALSO: 11 Outstanding Records Held By Lionel Messi

READ ALSO: Messi Ends Trophy Drought As Argentina Beat Brazil To Win Copa America

Elsewhere, Brazil will host Argentina on September in Sao Paulo, which could pit Messi against PSG’s Neymar, in a qualifying game for the 2022 World Cup.

AFP

 

 

Messi Eyes ‘Something Special’ At PSG

Messi is expected to lead PSG’s push for a first Champions League title. Photo: Instagram/PSG

 

Lionel Messi said he wants to “build something special” at Paris Saint-Germain before being unveiled as a Parisian player on Wednesday.

The 34-year-old superstar signed a two-year deal with PSG on Tuesday with the option of an additional year.

Messi, who will wear the number 30 in Paris, the number he had when he began his professional career at Barca, will be unveiled by PSG at a press conference at 11:00 am (0900 GMT) on Wednesday.

“I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain,” he said in a statement on the club’s website.

“Everything about the club matches my football ambitions,” said Messi, who was given a hero’s welcome by the PSG fans when he arrived in the French capital on Tuesday.

“I know how talented the squad and the coaching staff are here.

“I am determined to help build something special for the club and the fans, and I am looking forward to stepping out onto the pitch at the Parc des Princes.”

French Football League president Vincent Labrune hailed the surprise arrival of the six-time Ballon d’Or winner as “extraordinary news for the exposure of Ligue 1 internationally”.

“The arrival of Lionel Messi will increase the attractiveness and visibility of our league on all continents,” he said on Wednesday, praising PSG’s leadership.

READ ALSO: Messi Ends Trophy Drought As Argentina Beat Brazil To Win Copa America

Warm welcome


Supporters gather outside Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, where Argentinian football player Lionel Messi will arrive, on August 10, 2021, as Paris Saint-Germain look to complete the 34-year-old signing following his departure from Barcelona, the club he has represented for the entirety of his 17-year professional career so far.  Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

 

Messi, who was a free agent after his shock departure from boyhood club Barcelona last week, landed at Le Bourget airport in the north of Paris on Tuesday afternoon.

He was greeted by hundreds of PSG supporters who had gathered hoping to catch a glimpse of their new signing.

Fans also gathered outside the club’s Parc des Princes home and near a plush hotel in the city where Messi along with wife Antonella and their three children are expected to be staying.

Messi waved to crowds while sporting a Paris T-shirt on his arrival at the airport before being taken for his medical.

The completion of his move closes a whirlwind few days following the announcement last Thursday that he would leave Barcelona, the club he has represented for the entirety of his 17-year professional career.

PSG’s move for Messi had been an open secret for days, although reports in Spain on Monday night talked of a “final offer” by Barcelona to try to keep the player.

Instead, Messi will join a PSG attack already featuring Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Qatar-backed PSG see Messi as the missing piece in their jigsaw as they chase the Champions League, the trophy they want more than anything else.

“Back together,” Neymar, who played with Messi at Barcelona before moving to PSG in 2017, posted on Twitter.

Coming to terms 

messi-
File photo: Ex-Barcelona forward Lionel Messi looks downwards during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona are still coming to terms with the departure of their greatest ever player, who said goodbye to his club of two decades at a tearful news conference on Sunday.

Despite offering to cut his salary by half to seal a new five-year contract with the Catalans, the deal foundered on Spanish league salary cap rules.

Barcelona, carrying debts of 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion), are unable to register new signings because of their financial predicament.

With Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City having ruled themselves out, PSG were about the only club that could afford what is expected to be a deal worth 35 million euros a year.

He leaves Barcelona with 672 goals in 778 appearances, a record tally for one club.

Messi won 35 trophies at the Camp Nou after joining Barca aged 13, but his last appearance was a damp squib: a 2-1 home defeat behind closed doors against Celta Vigo in May.

His trophy haul includes four Champions Leagues and 10 La Liga titles.

“Firstly, I’m a little sad for him. He wanted to stay at Barcelona,” former teammate Cesc Fabregas said late on Tuesday.

“I’m from Barcelona and you know it’s going to be difficult to watch Barca without Leo.”

PSG building 

This summer, PSG have already added veteran Spanish defender Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, the star of Euro 2020.

They have also signed Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool, snatching the Netherlands’ midfielder from under the noses of Barcelona, and spent 60 million euros on Inter Milan right-back Achraf Hakimi, who scored on his PSG league debut at the weekend.

Messi could be unveiled to supporters on Saturday, when PSG host Strasbourg and a full house of nearly 48,000 will be allowed in for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck 18 months ago.

However, he is unlikely to make his debut until later this month at the earliest.

AFP

Messi Joins PSG After 21 Years At Barcelona

 

Argentine star Lionel Messi has joined Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), two days after he confirmed his exit from Barcelona. 

The 34-year-old La Albiceleste skipper signed a two-year deal, the club said on Tuesday. Messi has an option of extending his deal with the French outfit. He will receive a £25m signing-on fee as part of the move.

“I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain,” said Messi in a statement on the club’s website.

Messi will wear the number 30 as revealed in a video by the club, the number he had when he began his professional career at Barcelona between 2004-2006.

“Everything about the club matches my football ambitions,” Messi, who was given a hero’s welcome by the PSG fans when he arrived in the French capital, added.

“I know how talented the squad and the coaching staff are here. I am determined to help build something special for the club and the fans, and I am looking forward to stepping out onto the pitch at the Parc des Princes.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Paris Saint-Germain (@psg)

READ ALSO: 11 Outstanding Records Held By Lionel Messi

READ ALSO: Messi Ends Trophy Drought As Argentina Beat Brazil To Win Copa America

Warm welcome


Supporters gather outside Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, where Argentinian football player Lionel Messi will arrive, on August 10, 2021, as Paris Saint-Germain look to complete the 34-year-old signing following his departure from Barcelona, the club he has represented for the entirety of his 17-year professional career so far.  Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

 

Messi, who was a free agent after his shock departure from boyhood club Barcelona last week, landed at Le Bourget airport to the north of Paris on Tuesday afternoon.

There he was greeted by hundreds of PSG supporters who had gathered hoping to catch a glimpse of their new signing.

Those fans also gathered outside the club’s Parc des Princes home and near a plush hotel in the city where Messi along with wife Antonella and their three children are expected to be staying.

Messi waved to crowds while sporting a Paris t-shirt on his arrival at the airport before being taken for his medical.

“I am delighted that Lionel Messi has chosen to join Paris Saint-Germain and we are proud to welcome him and his family to Paris. He has made no secret of his desire to continue competing at the very highest level and winning trophies, and naturally our ambition as a club is to do the same,” Chairman and CEO of Paris Saint-Germain, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, said.

“The addition of Leo to our world class squad continues a very strategic and successful transfer window for the club. Led by our outstanding coach and his staff, I look forward to the team making history together for our fans all around the world.”

Messi’s father Jorge, who is also his agent, had earlier confirmed the inevitable as he arrived at Barcelona’s El Prat airport to board a flight to France.

Asked by reporters if his son would sign for the French club, he replied: “Yes”.

The completion of his move closes a whirlwind few days following the announcement last Thursday that he would leave Barcelona, the club he has represented for the entirety of his 17-year professional career.

PSG’s move for Messi had been an open secret for days, although reports in Spain on Monday night talked of a “final offer” by Barcelona to try to keep the player.

Instead, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner will join a PSG attack already featuring Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Qatar-backed PSG see Messi as the missing piece in their jigsaw as they chase the Champions League, the trophy they want more than anything else.

“Back together,” Neymar, who played with Messi at Barcelona before moving to PSG in 2017, posted on Twitter.

‘Coming to terms’

Ex-Barcelona Argentinian forward Lionel Messi cries at the start of a press conference at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 8, 2021.  (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

 

Barcelona are still coming to terms with the departure of their greatest ever player, who said goodbye to his club of two decades at a tearful news conference on Sunday.

Despite offering to cut his salary by half to seal a new five-year contract with the Catalans, the deal foundered on Spanish league salary cap rules.

Barcelona, carrying debts of 1.2 billion euros ($1.41 billion), are unable to register new signings because of their financial predicament.

With Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City having ruled themselves out, PSG were about the only club who could afford what is expected to be a deal worth 35 million euros ($41 million) a year.

He leaves Barcelona with 672 goals in 778 appearances, a record tally for one club.

Messi won 35 trophies at the Camp Nou after joining Barca aged 13, but his last appearance was a damp squib: a 2-1 home defeat behind closed doors against Celta Vigo in May.

His trophy haul includes four Champions Leagues and 10 La Liga titles.

“It will be difficult to see him in another shirt than that of Barca,” Messi’s old Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta, now playing in Japan, told AFP in an interview on Tuesday.

“As a player he just transcended everything. I’ve not seen a player like him — and I don’t think I ever will. You look at what he did and for so long…”

Messi could be unveiled to supporters on Saturday, when PSG host Strasbourg and a full house of nearly 48,000 will be allowed in for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck 18 months ago.

However he is unlikely to make his debut until later this month at the earliest.

It’s Difficult To See Messi In Another Club’s Colours, Says Iniesta

Iniesta played with Messi for 14 years. Photo: [email protected]

 

They played together for Barcelona for 14 years, winning everything the club game has to offer on multiple occasions.

Both have now left the Catalan club — but former midfield general Andres Iniesta, who joined Japan’s Vissel Kobe three years ago, says it will be hard to see Leo Messi play for another team.

“It will be difficult to see him in another shirt than that of Barca,” Iniesta told AFP on Tuesday as Messi flew to a new adventure with Paris Saint-Germain.

“I don’t know if surprise is the right word — Leo really has represented Barca for so many years. But sometimes circumstances dictate things. I don’t have the inside track but it is a situation people will just have to deal with,” said Iniesta, who, like Messi, bade farewell to Barcelona at 34.

READ ALSO: Brazil Beat Spain To Retain Olympic Football Crown

‘Transcended Everything’

In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 ex-Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

“As a player he just transcended everything. I’ve not seen a player like him — and I don’t think I ever will. You look at what he did and for so long…

Iniesta insisted Barca will remain a force even without their talisman and record scorer.

“I am confident of that — new faces are coming in who will make their own major contributions,” Iniesta said as fans reeled from the news that after 17 seasons Messi was off to sign a reported two-year bumper deal with PSG.

If Messi takes up a mooted option of a third year he will be 37 — Iniesta’s age now — and the latter has proved his own longevity by agreeing a further two years Japanese extension.

“Every year it does take it out of you more and things get more complicated but as long as you really want to get out there, train and play then you keep going.”

Iniesta, who has lifted a Japanese Emperor’s Cup and Super Cup with Kobe, reflected that he knew his time at Barcelona was up when he moved on. “There comes a moment when you say, it’s over,” he said.

But he would not say if his own latest contract will be his last as a player.

Asked if he might return in some capacity to Barcelona he would only say “of course it would be great to go back. I spent many years there. It’s my home and I would like to be where one feels loved, respected and at ease.

“But I don’t know what will be my next step. I don’t know if I will be coach, sporting director or anything like that.

“I’ll only say that if you ask:  would I like to go back, I’d say ‘yes’ as Barcelona is our home. Time will tell,” said Iniesta, who made almost 700 first-team appearances for Barca and 130 for Spain adding he did intend to obtain a coaching licence.

AFP

Lionel Messi To Arrive Paris On Monday For PSG – Report

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi holds a press conference at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 8, 2021. Pau BARRENA / AFP
Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi holds a press conference at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 8, 2021. Pau BARRENA / AFP

 

Lionel Messi is expected to arrive in Paris on Monday, lured by the limitless funds of PSG, having said a tearful farewell to Barcelona after 21 years.

The 34-year-old, seen by the French giants’ Qatari owners as the vital missing piece of their frustrating Champions League puzzle, has already had fans playing a guessing game.

On Sunday night, dozens of PSG diehards gathered at the gates of Le Bourget airport to the north of the capital in the hope of catching a glimpse of their newest ‘galactico’.

However, their wait was in vain.

Stressing no deals had been done, Messi did concede at his tearful farewell news conference in Barcelona earlier Sunday that joining PSG was a “possibility”.

In reality, they are the only club who can afford what is expected to be a deal worth 35 million euros a year for the 34-year-old Argentine.

“I gave everything for Barcelona from the first day that I arrived right to the last. I never imagined having to say goodbye,” Messi told the news conference.

“I have still not come to terms with the reality of leaving this club now — I love this club,” added a suited Messi, who several times wiped away tears before a squadron of reporters at the club’s Camp Nou ground who gave him a standing ovation.

Messi, widely considered the most gifted player in the history of the game, won 35 trophies at Barcelona who he joined as a 13-year-old — including four Champions Leagues and 10 league titles while his 672 goals are a record for any of the top five European leagues.

‘Great for Ligue 1’

Despite offering to cut his salary by half to seal a new five-year deal which a club carrying debts of 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion) and player had agreed on, the agreement foundered on strict Spanish League salary restrictions.

Some in France’s Ligue 1 have mixed feelings about the impending arrival of Messi who will form a superstar attacking force alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar who earns a reported 36 million euros a year and is a former Barcelona teammate of the Argentine.

“It’s extraordinary for Ligue 1,” said Metz coach Frederic Antonetti.

“But for a purist like me, Messi should have finished his career at Barcelona.”

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi cries at the start of a press conference at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 8, 2021. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

 

This summer PSG have already added veteran Spanish defender Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid, where he won four Champions League crowns, as Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Messi is a free agent. Ramos also arrived on a free transfer.

A move to the Parc des Princes would mean a reunion with his Argentina international colleague Angel di Maria.

An added attraction is that coach Mauricio Pochettino, like Messi, started his career at Newell’s Old Boys in Rosario, Argentina.

Pochettino has been giving nothing away on the arrival of Messi.

“There have been lots of rumours. Lots of things are being said,” he said as PSG laboured to a 2-1 win over Troyes in their opening game of the new league season.

Jorge Sampaoli, the coach of PSG’s bitter rivals Marseille, said the arrival of Messi can only be good news for French football.

“It would be great for Ligue 1, he’s the best player in the world,” said Sampaoli.

“French football has won a lot and grown a lot in recent seasons.

“Even if he goes to a club other than Marseille, it will be good. Everyone would be riveted on the championship. It will be an additional motivation for us to play against him.”

Meanwhile, in an indication that Barcelona are keen to move swiftly on, they defeated Juventus 3-0 on Sunday night in a pre-season friendly.

AFP