Messi flies in to complete move to Paris Saint-Germain

International
Lionel Messi

FILE – In this Jan.14, 2018 file photo FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi kicks the ball and scores the fourth goal of his team against Real Sociedad during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Real Sociedad, at Anoeta stadium, in San Sebastian, northern Spain. Barcelona announced Thursday Aug. 5, 2021 that Lionel Messi will not stay with the club. He is leaving after 17 successful seasons in which he propelled the Catalan club to glory, helping it win numerous domestic and international titles since debuting as a teenager. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos, File)

Lionel Messi finalized agreement on his Paris Saint-Germain contract and arrived in the French capital on Tuesday to complete the move that confirms the end of a career-long association with Barcelona.

Dozens of PSG fans gathered at Le Bourget Airport in Paris to welcome Messi, who was wearing a T-shirt featuring “Ici c’est Paris” — “Here is Paris.”

The 34-year-old Argentina star has agreed a two-year deal with the option for a further season, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the contract ahead of it being signed and the official announcement. Messi is set to earn around 35 million euros ($41 million) net annually, the person said.

Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, also confirmed his son was moving to PSG in a brief exchange with reporters at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport on Tuesday.

At the same airport, Messi was later seen arriving with his wife and three children before boarding a private jet.

“With it all, toward a new adventure. The five together,” Antonela Roccuzzo said on Instagram alongside a photo with her husband on the plane.

PSG supporters have seen their club transformed over the last decade since the influx of Qatari sovereign wealth investment linked to the emir. Once Messi’s Barcelona contract expired — and the Catalan club was unable to afford to keep him — PSG was one of the few clubs that could finance a deal to sign the six-time world player of the year.

Messi’s arrival gives PSG formidable attacking options as he links up with France World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe and Brazil forward Neymar.

“Back together,” Neymar posted on Instagram over a video of them hugging, playing for Barcelona.

While PSG had to pay 222 million euros (then $261 million) to sign Neymar from Barcelona in 2017, there was no transfer fee for Messi.

Messi became the most desired free agent in soccer history after his attempts to stay at Barcelona were rejected last week by the Spanish league because the salary would not comply with financial regulations, with the Catalan club burdened by debts of more than 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion).

PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino quickly made contact with his fellow Argentine after Barcelona announced last Thursday that Messi would be leaving the club he joined as a 13-year-old.

Messi won every major honor with Barcelona and was granted a tearful exit news conference on Sunday to signal the end of an era. Only Cristiano Ronaldo in the current era challenges Messi’s status as an all-time great.

PSG will be hoping not only that Messi helps the team regain the French title it lost to Lille last season, but finally win the Champions League.

If Pochettino uses a 4-3-3 formation, the front three could see Messi deployed on the right with Neymar on the left and Mbappe between them as the center forward.

The quandary for Pochettino would be how to use Angel Di Maria, whose goal sealed the Copa America title last month, and another Argentine attacker — Mauro Icardi. It’s a tactical challenge most coaches would relish, with a 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 also in the mix to accommodate the attacking talents available.

What should be less demanding is PSG complying with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play. Some flexibility has been provided in the rules due to the pandemic and changes are due to the system that were designed to stem losses. It is PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi who, as chairman of the European Club Association and a member of UEFA’s executive committee, is involved in the process of discussing a wider update to FFP that could allow more unchecked spending again.

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