Mbappe Takes Centre Stage For PSG In Absence Of Messi, Neymar

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe reacts during the French L1 football match between Stade Brestois and Paris Saint-Germain at Francis-Le Ble Stadium in Brest on August 20, 2021. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Lionel Messi, Neymar and a host of other South American stars are missing for Paris Saint-Germain this weekend but Kylian Mbappe will take centre stage after starring for France in their successful UEFA Nations League campaign.

Messi, along with Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria, is with Argentina for their 2022 World Cup qualifier against Peru which was not due to kick off until early on Friday morning, French time.

Neymar and Marquinhos have been with Brazil, due to play Uruguay in a qualifier at the same time.

A third round of South American World Cup qualifiers in quick succession, so close to the weekend, has caused problems for clubs in Europe, where so many leading players are based.

PSG are one of many forced to prepare for matches this weekend without their South American stars, who will not be able to return in time.

“The different federations and FIFA all need to come together so that this type of situation doesn’t happen again,” said PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino when asked about the manic schedule facing his players.

However, he added: “I am not looking for excuses. We have a big squad and it gives a chance to other players.”

Mbappe is available and on a high after scoring two goals and setting up two more as France won the Nations League in Italy.

Mbappe, who scored in the 2018 World Cup final as a teenager, got the decisive goal in last weekend’s final against Spain in Milan.

The 22-year-old’s future remains a subject of much debate with his contract up at the end of this season and Real Madrid waiting in the wings.

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“The club will do everything to keep Kylian,” Pochettino told Spanish radio station Cope this week when inevitably pressed on the matter.

“As coach I would love him to stay here for many years to come.”

In Ligue 1 Mbappe has scored four goals this season with PSG already six points clear of Lens at the top of the table despite seeing their perfect start ended in a 2-0 defeat at Rennes two weeks ago.

After Friday’s game they play host to RB Leipzig in the Champions League in what will be their first European outing since beating Manchester City late last month.

Player to watch: Mohamed-Ali Cho

Cho was born in the Paris suburbs and spent time in PSG’s academy, so it will be a special occasion when he comes up against the capital side with Angers this weekend.

Still just 17, winger Cho is a prodigious talent who has already played in 30 top-flight games.

Cho actually spent much of his childhood in England and represented them as a youth international while on the books at Everton.

However, having signed professional terms with Angers, he has broken into the France Under-21 side at the start of this season and looks to have a very exciting future ahead of him.

Key stats

4 – Mbappe has gone four Ligue 1 games without scoring, his longest drought in France’s top flight since May 2018.

190 – The total number of minutes played in Ligue 1 by Messi since he joined PSG.

17 – The number of goals scored by Lille’s Jonathan David in Ligue 1 in 2021. He is fresh from scoring for Canada in a 2022 World Cup qualifier against Panama on Wednesday.

Fixtures (kick-offs GMT)

Friday

Paris Saint-Germain v Angers (1900)

Saturday

Clermont v Lille (1500), Lyon v Monaco (1900)

Sunday

Troyes v Nice (1100), Bordeaux v Nantes, Brest v Reims, Metz v Rennes, Strasbourg v Saint-Etienne (all 1300), Montpellier v Lens (1500), Marseille v Lorient (1845)

Messi Scores As PSG Beat Man City 2-0 In Champions League

Paris Saint-Germain’s Senegalese midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye (R) celebrates with Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League first round group A football match between Paris Saint-Germain’s (PSG) and Manchester City at The Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on September 28, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

 

Lionel Messi scored his first goal in a Paris Saint-Germain shirt as they beat visiting Manchester City 2-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday.

After Idrissa Gueye put the hosts ahead in the eighth minute, PSG withstood ferocious City pressure before Messi sealed the victory, firing high into the net from a Kylian Mbappe lay-off to score in his fourth appearance for the club since signing from Barcelona last month.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Senegalese midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye (R) celebrates with Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League first round group A football match between Paris Saint-Germain’s (PSG) and Manchester City at The Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on September 28, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

Again, Injured Messi To Miss Out For PSG 

File photo: Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match Club Brugge against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Jan Breydel Stadium in Bruges, on September 15, 2021. JOHN THYS / AFP

 

Lionel Messi will again be sidelined for Paris Saint-Germain for Saturday’s game against Montpellier as he continues to nurse a knee injury, his club said.

PSG said Messi had started running again and that a new update would come on Sunday, raising hope that he will be able to return for the Champions League clash against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on Tuesday.

“Hopefully everything will be ok and he will be back with us,” coach Mauricio Pochettino said at a press conference.

“We hope he can be there. We need to be cautious and see how things evolve in the coming days.”

Messi was taken off in the 76th minute of last weekend’s 2-1 win over Lyon in Ligue 1.

It only emerged later that he was suffering from a knock to a knee and he played no part in Wednesday’s 2-1 league win at Metz.

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Messi has made just three appearances for his new club since arriving from Barcelona in early August, and has completed 90 minutes just once, at Club Brugge in the Champions League.

PSG are looking to make it eight wins out of eight in Ligue 1 this season when they play Montpellier, with Pochettino insisting that is his focus, not the rematch with a City side who knocked them out of the Champions League in the semi-finals last season.

“The important thing is the Montpellier game, trying to win and improve in the aspects we need to improve. Manchester City doesn’t influence it,” said the Argentine.

“We want to keep our run of results going, although of course it can help us prepare for the game on Tuesday.”

Marco Verratti and Sergio Ramos, the close-season signing from Real Madrid, are also still on the sidelines.

AFP

Injured Messi Ruled Out Of Midweek Action With PSG

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and Olympique Lyonnais at The Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on September 19, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

 

 

Lionel Messi will miss Paris Saint-Germain’s game away to Metz on Wednesday due to a knee injury which coach Mauricio Pochettino has said was the real reason behind his surprise decision to take the six-time Ballon d’Or winner off against Lyon at the weekend.

The Argentine star underwent an MRI on Tuesday after taking a knock to his left knee during Sunday’s 2-1 win. Results showed signs of bone bruising, the club said in a statement.

Messi was replaced by Achraf Hakimi, a full-back, after 76 minutes against Lyon, on his first home appearance as a PSG player since arriving from Barcelona.

The 34-year-old appeared to reject Pochettino’s hand as he walked past his coach towards the Paris bench but the former Tottenham Hotspur boss later defended his decision to take Messi off without mentioning the injury.

On Tuesday he admitted that Messi’s fitness was the reason he made the change with the scores level at the time.

“On the touchline we are always observing the players, seeing what is happening during the match, and we saw that Leo was looking at his knee,” Pochettino told reporters.

“We are pleased with the way he played. He played very well in the first half, and the only thing missing was a goal.

“He played for 76 minutes and with all the information we had we decided to take him off,” added Pochettino, who said he accepted that substituting a player of Messi’s status might surprise observers.

“Of course I understand the situation and I accept it as it is.

– ‘Best thing for him’ –
“It is not a surprise for me, but the priority is always the well-being of the player and in this case we thought it was the best thing for him to take him off.

“All great champions always want to be on the pitch and that is understandable.”

Mauro Icardi’s stoppage-time headed goal secured victory for PSG against Lyon, leaving them with six wins out of six in Ligue 1 this season and already five points clear of second-placed Marseille, albeit having played a game more.

They will be expected to keep their run going away to a Metz side who are winless and prop up the division, although Pochettino may heavily rotate his squad.

PSG are at home to Montpellier at the weekend, when it remains to be seen if Messi will return. They then host Manchester City in the Champions League next Tuesday, September 28.

“We have a squad of 35 players. They all deserve to play but there are not enough places,” admitted Pochettino.

The Argentine manager has also come in for criticism for the way his all-star team played against Lyon and in last week’s 1-1 draw at Club Brugge in the Champions League.

Those were the first two matches in which Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe had all played together, but Pochettino says he needs time to get his ideas across.

“In general, in the past, in normal times, you had six or seven weeks in pre-season, lots of friendly matches to work on things.

“Now we need to try things as we go along, during games. It is not a situation we like much but we have to get used to it.”

There is a full round of games in France on Wednesday with Marseille aiming to continue their unbeaten start away at Angers.

PSG Kept Waiting For Record-Setting Messi’s Home Bow

Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Bolivia during the South American qualification football match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires on September 9, 2021. (Photo by Natacha Pisarenko / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Having scored a hat-trick for Argentina in World Cup qualifying, Lionel Messi will have to wait for his home debut in France, possibly leaving Paris Saint-Germain without their star front three for Saturday’s Ligue 1 match against promoted side Clermont.

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino will be deprived of the majority of his South American contingent after their countries played World Cup qualifiers on Thursday.

Messi notched all three goals as Argentina, who also included PSG’s Angel Di Maria in their lineup, beat Bolivia 3-0 barely 36 hours before the Parisians are due to kick off at the Parc des Princes.

The triple strike made Messi the top international goalscorer in South American football history with 79 goals, overtaking Pele.

Neymar will also be absent after scoring in Brazil’s 2-0 victory against Peru.

The third member of the attacking trio, Kylian Mbappe, is still an injury doubt after leaving the France camp with a calf injury he suffered in their first qualifier of the international break against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

All three are however expected to be ready in time for PSG’s Champions League opener at Club Brugge on Wednesday.

The 2020 Champions League runners-up will be judged this season on their performances in the European competition, which they have never won despite the substantial injection of funds from their Qatari owners.

Expectations are even higher than usual after a transfer window in which Messi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Achraf Hakimi and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma all joined the club.

There could be a debut against Clermont for Portugal full-back Nuno Mendes, the lowest-profile of the summer arrivals.

But the 19-year-old impressed in Sporting Lisbon’s title-winning team last term and could prove a bargain after joining PSG on a season-long loan for a reported seven million euros ($8.3 million), with an option to buy for 40 million euros.

“It’s a moment of great pride for me to have signed here among all these great players,” Nuno Mendes, who has won eight international caps, told PSG’s website. “I think it’s every player’s dream to play alongside them.

“I think it’s important for me to stay calm, to do what I do best.”

PSG are stronger favourites to win Ligue 1 than ever before — although Lille wrested the title from them last season — and their expensively assembled team already sit top after four wins from as many matches.

– Suspension-hit Marseille visit Monaco –
Marseille hit out at the French league (LFP) on Thursday, arguing that the punishment given to Nice for their fans’ behaviour during a suspended match between the two teams last month was too lenient.

Nice will have to play three games behind closed doors and had two points deducted, albeit one suspended, after fans invaded the Allianz Riviera pitch when Dimitri Payet threw a bottle which had been launched at him back into the crowd.

Payet has been given a one-match ban, with Alvaro Gonzalez handed a two-game suspension.

The match, which Nice led 1-0 with 15 minutes remaining, will be replayed.

“The club regrets that any invasion of the pitch affecting the safety and health of players is not sanctioned immediately and more firmly,” Marseille said in a statement.

Marseille, who now sit one point ahead of Nice with seven points from three games, face Monaco in the principality on Saturday.

Nice, backed by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, visit Nantes on Sunday.

Player to watch: Xherdan Shaqiri– The Switzerland forward could make his debut for Lyon on Sunday against Strasbourg after joining from Liverpool for an initial fee of six million euros.

Lyon will be hoping he can fill the boots of Memphis Depay after the Dutchman’s fine start to life with Barcelona.

The 29-year-old Shaqiri will be hoping to become a key player for Lyon, after often finding himself on the periphery at Anfield and during spells at Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.

Key statsSix – Amount of teams still unbeaten in Ligue 1 this season. There are also six teams still winless.

Seven – Goals scored by Clermont in the first three Ligue 1 games in their history.

10 – Assists made by PSG’s new full-back Hakimi since the start of last season.

Fixtures (times GMT)Friday

Lorient v Lille (1900)

Saturday

Paris Saint-Germain v Clermont (1500), Monaco v Marseille (1900)

Sunday

Montpellier v Saint-Etienne (1100), Bordeaux v Lens, Brest v Angers, Metz v Troyes, Rennes v Reims (all 1300), Nantes v Nice (1500), Lyon v Strasbourg (1845)

Messi Breaks Pele Goalscoring Record

Argentina’s Lionel Messi (L) and Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul (R) hold the Copa America trophy while posing for a picture at the end of their South American qualification football match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 against Bolivia at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires on September 9, 2021. (Photo by Juan Ignacio RONCORONI / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Argentina captain Lionel Messi scored a hat trick to break Pele’s record and become the leading international goalscorer in the history of South American football on Thursday.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward opened the scoring for Argentina in their World Cup qualifier against Bolivia at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires to tie Pele’s mark of 77 international goals.

The 34-year-old then struck his 78th international goal on 64 minutes to give Argentina a 2-0 lead.

 

Argentina’s Lionel Messi (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Bolivia during the South American qualification football match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires on September 9, 2021. (Photo by Natacha Pisarenko / POOL / AFP)

 

Messi’s double came in his 153rd appearance for Argentina.

The former Barcelona star’s great rival Cristiano Ronaldo holds the outright record for goals scored in international football with 111 from 180 games.

 

Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Bolivia during the South American qualification football match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires on September 9, 2021. (Photo by Natacha Pisarenko / POOL / AFP)

 

Thursday’s match in Buenos Aires comes four days after Argentina’s game against Brazil on Sunday was suspended due to a Covid-19 controversy.

 

Messi Makes PSG Debut As Mbappe Steals The Show

 

Lionel Messi came on as a substitute to make his Paris Saint-Germain debut on Sunday but Kylian Mbappe stole the show by scoring both goals in a 2-0 win against Reims in Ligue 1.

Messi, wearing the number 30 jersey, came off the bench in the 66th minute to replace Neymar at the Stade Auguste-Delaune, where fans in the sell-out 21,000 crowd had earlier chanted his name as he emerged to warm up.

The Argentine had not played since arriving in Paris from Barcelona almost three weeks ago, his last appearance in any game dating back to the Copa America final on July 11, when he led his country to victory against Brazil.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner will have to wait for his first goal with his new club, and his first start, which could come when PSG host Clermont in their next match on September 11.

After that, they will begin their Champions League campaign away to Club Brugge in Belgium.

The week leading up to this game had been dominated not by Messi but by talk of Mbappe’s future, with Real Madrid reportedly having two offers for the France World Cup-winning striker rejected.

The latest of these offers was understood to be worth 180 million euros ($212m), an astronomical amount for a player whose contract expires at the end of the season and who will be free to negotiate a deal with a new club in January without PSG being able to get a transfer fee.

That amount is also equal to what PSG paid Monaco in 2017 to sign Mbappe, who was clearly eager to go out on a high if this was to be his final appearance for the club.

With the transfer deadline looming on Tuesday, the 22-year-old did not appear remotely distracted by the talk of a move as he headed in a glorious Angel Di Maria cross in the 15th minute to put the away side in front.

Mbappe then scored his second of the night, and third of the season, just after the hour mark, finishing off an inviting low cross to the back post by Achraf Hakimi.

All-star attack

Reims were once France’s pre-eminent club, twice reaching the European Cup final in 1956 and 1959, but it is a long time since the footballing spotlight has been on the city, which lies 150 kilometres north-east of Paris in the Champagne region, to such an extent.

The home side, whose coach Oscar Garcia played for Barcelona in the 1990s, had what they thought was an equalising goal by Zimbabwe’s Marshall Munetsi early in the second half disallowed for offside.

They put up a good fight but the chances of any team in France stopping PSG — even if Mbappe departs — are slim.

Neymar started, making his first appearance of the season, while Di Maria also played in an all-star attack in Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

The Qatar-owned club are the only team in Ligue 1 with the maximum 12 points after four games and they lie two points clear of surprise package Angers, who had earlier beaten Rennes 2-0.

Also on Sunday, defending champions Lille recorded their first victory of the Ligue 1 campaign as Yusuf Yazici and Canada’s Jonathan David scored in a 2-1 win over 10-man Montpellier.

Monaco bounced back from their elimination from the Champions League in the play-off round in midweek to win 2-1 at Troyes, Sofiane Diop’s brace securing their first victory of the Ligue 1 season.

Messi To Play With Neymar And Mbappe For First Time, Says Pochettino

Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar (L), Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe (C) and Paris Saint-Germain's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi take part in a training session at the Camp des Loges Paris Saint-Germain football club's training ground in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on August 28, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar (L), Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe (C) and Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi take part in a training session at the Camp des Loges Paris Saint-Germain football club’s training ground in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on August 28, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Kylian Mbappe, coveted by Real Madrid, should be in the Paris Saint-Germain squad at Reims, along with Lionel Messi, who could make his debut, and Neymar, coach Mauricio Pochettino said on Saturday.

“We have not yet announced the squad,” the coach told his press conference ahead of Sunday evening’s Ligue 1 match, adding that all the ‘magic trio’ “will certainly be among those named, we will see if they can play from the start of the match.”

Pochettino said Mbappe had not told him he wanted to leave PSG for Real Madrid.

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“Kylian has worked very well in training as usual”, Pochettino said.

As for the striker’s contractual situation, “our president and our sporting director have been clear about the club’s position”, Pochettino added.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi reiterated at the Champions League draw on Thursday that the club had not changed its position and intended to keep Mbappe.

Even without Messi and Neymar, PSG have won all three of their opening league games.

French Slam FIFA Over Release Of Messi, Neymar For World Cup Matches

(From L) Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain’s Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera 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)

 

 

The French Professional Football League (LFP) shared the regrets expressed by other European leagues over FIFA’s handling of September’s World Cup qualifiers in South America. 

The Italian and English top-flight leagues are also upset about FIFA’s decision to not extend exceptions for call-ups to countries where quarantine upon re-entry is mandatory.

“The LFP regrets that FIFA has failed to take into account the interests of national leagues nor those of the clubs that employ the players,” the French league said.

One such employer, Paris Saint-Germain, will send its two brightest stars Lionel Messi and Neymar to Argentina and Brazil for an extended series of World Cup dates.

FIFA offers no provision for clubs to refuse to send their players to a nation where they would be required to quarantine on return.

“This poses a major problem for clubs,” the LFP said.

Spain’s La Liga also said it would back its clubs in stopping players from leaving during the windows in September and October.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino demanded that the leagues and national federations “show solidarity” with international competitions.

PSG Without Neymar And Messi Against Strasbourg

(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 (Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP)

 

 

Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday omitted superstars Neymar and Lionel Messi from their squad for the Ligue 1 meeting with Strasbourg in the evening.

For the second game of the season, coach Mauricio Pochettino has again not selected any of the players who returned to the club late from the Euros or the Copa America.

Messi, who played in the South American final against Neymar and Brazil, only signed for PSG on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old Messi didn’t start training with his new teammates until Thursday.

Pochettino said the coaching staff would be taking it “step by step” with the Argentine striker so that he “is in the best possible condition when he starts.”

“It was a great opportunity to see him in action,”  said Pochettino.

 

(From L) Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain’s Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera 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)

 

Also still out of the squad are Brazilian Marquinhos, Argentines Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, who all started the Copa final on July 10, and Italians Gianluigi Donnarumma and Marco Verratti, who started in the Euro final victory over England the next day.

They are continuing the physical preparation they began when they returned to the training centre on August 6.

Another big name summer signing Sergio Ramos is injured and not expected to make his debut until after the international break in early September.

Messi will still be the star attraction at a gala evening being prepared for PSG’s first home league game of the season when Parc des Princes will be full for the first time in more than 17 months.

Messi, like the other new signings from a busy summer at PSG, will be presented to the public before kick off.

Kylian Mbappe, who was part of the France team that went out of the Euros to Switzerland in the round of 16 and who played in the opening week win at Troyes, is in the squad.

Pochettino could field the same starting XI which won at Troyes last Saturday.

Ramos Invites Messi, Family To Come Stay With Him At Paris Home

 

Sergio Ramos has made first signs of burying old hatchets as he has told Lionel Messi and his family to move in with him if they get tired of staying in a hotel.

Messi and Ramos were bitter rivals for many years in La Liga. While the Argentine played for Barcelona, Ramos featured for Real Madrid.

Spanish outlet Marca said the 34-year-old  is currently staying in the hotel Le Royal Monceau where all PSG’s big signings stay while they find permanent accommodation.

Le Royal Monceau which is situated on Avenue Hoch was where Ramos stayed briefly when he penned down his contract but has since moved to the Neuilly-sur-Seine area.

Ramos will have to wait a bit longer to feature along with the Argentine as he is out nursing a two-month thigh injury

On the other hand, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner has not been involved in any training since winning Copa America.

The house-sharing offer is the first episode in a  supposedly new chapter of their relationship since their 16 season run-ins in Spain.

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