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Lionel Messi completes PSG free transfer live: Latest news and updates after Barcelona exit

Lionel Messi completes PSG free transfer live: Latest news and updates after Barcelona exit

Lionel Messi has completed his move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi joined PSG on a two-year deal with the option of a third. He left Barcelona as a free agent after 21 years.

“The six-time Ballon d’Or winner is justifiably considered a legend of the game and a true inspiration for those of all ages inside and outside football.

“The signing of Leo reinforces Paris St Germain’s aspirations as well as providing the club’s loyal fans with not only an exceptionally talented squad, but also moments of incredible football in the coming years.”

He will take part in a press conference at 10am on Wednesday.

Follow live reaction to this breaking news story below.

(Photo: Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Good morning! Messi press conference shortly

By Holly Percival

Well last night was exciting wasn’t it?!

It felt both weird and exciting to see Lionel Messi in a Paris Saint-Germain shirt — and number 30!

In about 10 minutes time Messi will be chatting to the media in his first press conference for PSG and I will be providing you with updates here throughout.

Reaction

Messi said on Tuesday: “I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain. Everything about the club matches my football ambitions. 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.”

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the club’s chairman and CEO, added: “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. 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.”

There he is!

We may still be waiting on an official announcement but there is absolutely no doubt that Lionel Messi is a Paris Saint-Germain player…

How the deal was done

When Barcelona revealed on Thursday afternoon that Lionel Messi would be leaving the club, Paris Saint-Germain did not know if they would be able to land their man.

PSG admired Messi, of course, and he has been a long-term dream signing for the Qatari ownership since they purchased an initial 70 per cent stake in the French club in 2011. Indeed, since buying PSG outright the following year, contact has been relatively frequent between club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Jorge Messi, the father and agent of the Argentine player.

Al-Khelaifi made a concerted attempt to sign Messi last summer, when he came perilously close to a move away from Barcelona.

A year on, PSG have their man.

For the inside story on how PSG closed in on signing Messi over the last week, click below.

Messi’s 10 stages of greatness

Messi’s 10 stages of greatness

It is over a decade now since Lionel Messi emerged as one of the very best players in the world. For many, he has stayed at the pinnacle ever since, although that does not mean he has been standing still. Far from it.

Messi has kept growing his game as each season has passed, to such an extent that the now 34-year-old is not immediately recognisable as the La Masia graduate who made his league debut for the club all the way back in October 2004.

The Athletic walks you through every step in the evolution of the best player in the world.

Messi, Neymar, Mbappe — will it work?

It’s a scary thought: Neymar, Mbappe and Messi joining forces to dominate the French league and possibly European football, too.

That’s before adding Messi’s international colleague Angel Di Maria into the mix.

But there is one lingering doubt when considering the dynamic of this potential forward line — will it be possible for Pochettino to get the most out of Messi and Neymar, four years on from their separation at Barcelona?

The Athletic’s Tom Worville and Mark Carey have taken a look at the numbers in an attempt to work out how well the pair will play when reunited.

What would your starting XI look like?

Mauricio Pochettino clearly has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal for the 2021-22 season.

But what formation would you play and how which players would you select if you were the Argentine head coach?

Let us know your thoughts on Twitter by tweeting @TheAthleticUK.

Messi’s move will not affect whether Ronaldo stays at Juve — Bonucci

Lionel Messi’s move to Paris Saint-Germain will have no impact on whether Cristiano Ronaldo decides to stay at Juventus, according to his club team-mate Leonardo Bonucci.

“I think Cristiano would have stayed even if Messi did not go to PSG,” Bonucci told Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday.

“For us he is an added value, and I am sure that this year, more so than in past years, he will help us to go far with all our objectives.”

Well, this bodes rather well

According to Opta, since the start of the 2016-17 season the players with the most ‘big chances’ created in the Champions League are as follows:

  • Lionel Messi (30)
  • Kylian Mbappe (29)
  • Angel Di Maria (26)
  • Neymar (24)

And this season they will all play alongside each other.

And here’s another teaser….

Double-use of the sand timer, Paris Saint-Germain are running out of emojis!

This time it’s a video but of a still image.

In the dressing room. the shirt of Neymar Jr, No 10, hangs to the left, Mbappe, No 7, to the right and in the middle, taking centre stage is an Argentine shirt.

Metz coach: ‘Messi should have finished his career at Barcelona’

Messi spent 21 years at Barcelona having joined them in 2000 at the age of 13. He made his senior competitive debut at the age of 17 in October 2004 against Espanyol.

Since then, he has clocked up 520 appearances for Barcelona in the league, scoring 474 goals — a La Liga record. He has won the Ballon d’Or six times, the Champions League four times and La Liga ten times with Barcelona.

Should he have stayed?

According to Metz coach Frederic Antonetti, yes.

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

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

PSG to hold press conference on Wednesday at 10am

Paris-Saint Germain will hold a press conference at the Parc des Princes auditorium at 10am (BST) on Wednesday.

It is expected that Lionel Messi will be in attendance and take questions from the media.

We’ll be bringing you all the live updates from the event.

Paris Saint-Germain release teaser tweets ahead of Messi announcement

Paris Saint-Germain have put out two teaser tweets in anticipation of announcing the signing of Lionel Messi.

The first was captioned with an eye emoji while the second had a sand timer.

Certain clues in the tweets included the Argentine flag and six Ballon d’Ors in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Messi arrives in Paris

Lionel Messi has arrived in Paris ahead of his move to Paris Saint-Germain.

He was pictured waving and sporting a white shirt which read “Ici c’est Paris” (Here is Paris).

eymar celebrates Messi’s arrival on Instagram

Neymar has celebrated the arrival of Lionel Messi via his Instagram account.

The former Barcelona forward put up a compilation video of himself and Messi during their time at the Spanish club and captioned it with the words: “Back together”.

Elsewhere in La Liga….rivals Real Madrid to carry out legal action against La Liga president Tebas

Real Madrid have announced they will carry out civil and criminal legal actions against La Liga president Javier Tebas over the deal with private equity firm CVC Partners.

Last week, La Liga announced an agreement with CVC Partners. The deal would see €2.7 billion injected into Spanish football to be mostly spent by clubs at all levels to improve infrastructure and off-field business areas.

Barcelona are opposed to the agreement and Real Madrid have said they will carry out legal action against Tebas.

Many La Liga clubs have been badly hit by COVID-19, with losses around the league totalling €733 million in 2020-21, so this extra money will be very useful for recovery projects.

Real are opposed to the CVC deal, however, because they do not feel that it is a good deal for them financially and believe that La Liga are giving up too high a share of their future revenues over the coming decades.

Donnarumma ‘excited’ for Messi’s arrival

Paris Saint-Germain have so far signed Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Gini Wijnaldum during this transfer window.

Speaking about Messi’s move, Donnarumma expressed how much he is looking forward to having the six-time Ballon D’Or winner as part of his team.

“I am happy if he comes to Paris,” Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament Donnarumma told Sky Italia.

“He is the best player in the world, I am excited and happy at the thought of having him in the team.”

Messi arrives at Barcelona airport

Lionel Messi has arrived at Barcelona airport with his family just after his father Jorge.

He is due to arrive in Paris around 2pm (BST) and then have a medical to complete his move to PSG.

Messi’s dad Jorge confirms his son is signing for PSG

Messi’s agent and father Jorge confirmed to Spanish outlet La Sexta TV he would be joining PSG. Asked whether he would sign for PSG today at Barcelona’s El Prat airport, he said: “Yes”.

Jorge was also asked who he thought was the guilty party, he said: “Look in the club.”

And when asked if his son was sad he simply replied: “Were you not watching?”

Lionel Messi agrees deal with PSG with free transfer close

Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain have agreed terms on his move to the French capital.

The Athletic reported on Thursday night that Messi had made contact with PSG and a move has progressed rapidly since then. Barcelona confirmed on that day that he would have to leave the Nou Camp.

Would having Messi, Mbappe and Neymar on the same team work?

A lot of fans have been excited by the idea of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar playing as a front three for Paris Saint-Germain since the link between Messi and PSG began.

The question is, however, will it work?

The Athletic’s Tom Worville andMark Carey have analysed just how effective, or ineffective, PSG’s squad might be with the addition of Messi.

Why Messi left Barcelona

Lionel Messi’s tremendously emotional farewell press conference at the Nou Camp on Sunday morning made clear that he had been hugely surprised and saddened by how things have played out over the previous couple of days — that up until the very last moment, he still expected and had been assured that he would continue as a Barcelona player.

That was evident from how Messi struggled for words as he stepped up to the podium in the stadium’s 1899 auditorium (named for the year the club was founded), and looked out at so many present and past team-mates who were also fighting back tears and struggling to take on board what they were witnessing.

But it was also just as evident that neither Messi, his father and agent Jorge, nor their legal advisors, fully understood how the combination of La Liga’s financial controls and Barcelona’s awful finances had made continuing that career and life absolutely impossible.

Yet, Joan Laporta and his Barcelona board knew the bones of the situation, both before and after Laporta was re-elected for a second spell as club president in March.

The Athletic‘s Dermot Corrigan explains how Messi left Barcelona because of the club, not because of La Liga.

Could Messi ever play in the US?

Talks about Messi joining Paris Saint-Germain clicked into gear on Thursday evening and the French club are looking increasingly likely to get their man.

A move to MLS, however, has long been mooted for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.

Even though it might not happen just yet, The Athletic‘s Matt Slater reveals some of Messi’s options if he moves to America one day.

Lionel Messi’s farewell press conference

It has been 24 hours since Messi gave an emotional farewell at Camp Nou where he confirmed his departure from Barcelona after 21 years.

The 34-year-old described hearing the news of his departure as “a cold shower” and “the hardest moment of his career”.

Barcelona dealt another blow with Aguero injury

Barcelona have been dealt another blow ahead of the 2021-22 season after the club confirmed Sergio Aguero will be ruled out until mid-October due to a calf injury.

Aguero, 33, joined Barcelona as a free agent earlier this summer. He left Manchester City at the end of last season following the expiration of his contract.

ICYMI: How PSG closed in on signing Messi

The Athletic understands that Paris Saint-Germain are to complete the signing of Lionel Messi within 48 hours.

The news update came just hours after Messi broke down in tears when he confirmed he was leaving Barcelona after 21 years at his farewell press conference.

The Athletic’s Adam Crafton has explained how PSG closed in on the deal.

Where did it go wrong for Messi?

Lionel Messi still expected and had been assured that he would continue as a Barcelona player, right up until the very last moment.

So what happened?

Somewhere along the way, there was a huge breakdown in communication and understanding about the feasibility of Barca re-signing him.

To truly appreciate the full story, click below.

Paris Saint-Germain expect to complete Lionel Messi deal in next 48 hours

Paris-Saint Germain are expecting to complete the signing of Lionel Messi in the next 48 hours, The Athletic understands.

It is understood free-agent Messi will be paid a sign-on fee of €25 million and has been presented with a two-year contract with a net salary of €25 million per year; the deal includes an option of a third year at the same rate.

For all the detail on how PSG closed in on the signing, read more below.

Lionel Messi’s farewell press conference in full

Lionel Messi broke down in tears when he confirmed he was leaving Barcelona after 21 years at his farewell press conference on Sunday morning.

The 34-year-old described hearing the news of his departure as “a cold shower” and “the hardest moment of his career”.

Where does this leave Paul Pogba?

As recent as 10 days ago, it is understood Paris Saint-Germain opened initial discussions to gauge Paul Pogba’s interest in a move but they remained undecided whether to buy him this summer or to wait until the end of next season to try to sign him on a free transfer.

PSG didn’t contact Manchester United to escalate their interest into a formal bid, although one was anticipated to arrive in the coming weeks until Messi’s situation kicked off.

The unexpected Messi move means PSG are now likely to ask Pogba to run down the 12 months that are left on his contract before signing him as a free agent next summer.

It remains to be seen whether this appeals to the French midfielder or if he would prefer the certainty of signing a new long-term deal at United.

Read below for more detail.

Messi’s 10 stages of greatness

It is over a decade now since Lionel Messi was first acknowledged as the world’s best player. For many, he has stayed at the pinnacle ever since, although that does not mean he has been standing still. Far from it.

Messi has kept growing his game as each season has passed, to such an extent that the now 34-year-old is not immediately recognisable as the La Masia graduate who made his league debut for the club all the way back in October 2004.

The Athletic walks you through every step in the evolution of the best player in the world.

Barcelona’s concerning wage bill

According to Barcelona, the club have had to part with Messi due to La Liga’s salary cost limits.

There was once a time when Barcelona’s wage bill was the highest in the world but it is now on a par with AC Milan and Tottenham.

The Athletic’s Peter Rutzler explains how the club’s finances have reached this position.

That’s all from Messi in Barcelona

But not from us, here, reporting the latest news. We’ll almost certainly have updates thoughout the afternoon as Messi’s next destination becomes clearer.

Here’s our full story from the press conference.

Messi on the deal he made with Barcelona

“I had lowered my salary by 50 per cent, agreed that, and they (Barca) did not ask me for anything else after that. Many things are said which are not true.”

And on whether he feels tricked by anyone: “No, we did everything possible, and it could not be. When you don’t speak often, other things come out, everyone else can speak.

“But its not always true. I can only speak for me, I have always been honest, transparent, never tricked anyone. That was always most important for me.”

Further quotes from the press conference

Is Messi angry at La Liga for his exit? “I only know it is not possible for La Liga, for the club’s debts, that the club cannot go further in debt. I have nothing to say about Tebas, just met him a few times, and it was all friendly. I have no problem with Tebas, me.”

Messi confirms the circumstances of his exit

When asked about what happened, he said: “My new contract was done. All done. I wanted to stay and when I came back from holidays, it was done. … At the last minute with everything with La Liga, it couldn’t happen.”

Messi clarifying he does not want to leave

Some quotes from the forward: “I’ve been thinking for a few days, I think about what I could say, but I’m stuck. It’s very difficult for me, after so many years, my whole life here … I’m not ready.”

The press conference has begun

And Messi is already in tears – if you had any doubts over whether this is happening, cast them aside now.

Messi will be with us shortly

The press conference is scheduled to kick-off at 11am GMT.

It’ll be interesting to hear what the forward says about his exit from Barcelona, his next destination and more.

Morning everyone

We are live with another day of updates around Lionel Messi’s future.

There are key events expected today, including a press conference at 11am from Messi in Barcelona, which is expected to serve as a farewell.

Messi’s long-awaited Copa America glory

While the past few days have been dominated by Messi’s future, earlier this summer the Argentine tasted international silverware for the first time in his senior career.

It’s safe to say that Messi endured an unstable time with his national team. Before the arrival of head coach Lionel Scaloni in 2018, Messi played for eight different managers over 13 years with his country. In that time, he reached a World Cup final in 2014 and two consecutive Copa América finals in 2015 and 2016, losing all three matches.

Yet, this summer that all changed. Find out more about how Messi and Argentina found the right formula to win an international trophy with The Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas.

ICYMI: PSG are increasingly confident of signing Messi

Paris Saint-Germain remain in pole position to secure Lionel Messi’s signature.

The club have held talks with Messi’s representatives and are increasingly confident a deal to sign the 34-year-old this summer is feasible, after Barcelona announced his departure on Thursday.

The Athletic revealed yesterday that Messi himself made a direct approach to PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino, which triggered discussions to commence.

For more on the negotiations between the two clubs, click here.

Koeman speaks out on Messi departure

Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has joined the club’s players in bidding a public farewell to Lionel Messi.

“Still hard to understand that you will not play for FC Barcelona anymore,” Koeman posted on social media.

“Thanks for everything you have done for our club Leo. I really enjoyed the full season we worked together. I am impressed with your work ethic and desire to win.

“It makes you the best player in the world. For now, I wish you and your family the best!”

Will Messi take PSG to Champions League glory?

Beaten finalists in 2020. Semi-final defeat in 2021.

PSG are edging closer to the Champions League, but despite breaking world-record transfer fees it has still not been enough yet to get them over the line.

Similarly, despite lifting the Champions League on four occasions, winning the pinnacle of European club competition has escaped Messi since 2015.

Would bringing the Argentine to Paris, therefore, allow both club and player to achieve their mission of European success? Alternatively, will anything less than Champions League glory suffice?

Let us know your thoughts by tweeting @TheAthleticUK.

Change of fortunes for Pochettino…

During Mauricio Pochettino’s time as Tottenham manager, he often faced working under a tight budget and struggling to get deals over the line. In 2018, Spurs notoriously became the first Premier League club that failed to bring in any players during the summer transfer window.

Since joining PSG as head coach, however, Pochettino has overseen an incredible window for the club that has included bringing in veterans, such as Sergio Ramos as well as rising stars in Gianluigi Donnarumma. And now, he is on the verge of signing arguably the best player to have ever graced a football pitch — Lionel Messi.

How things change, eh?

Messi to give press conference tomorrow

By Ali Humayun

7 août 2021 at 14:45 CEST

Lionel Messi will give a press conference at the Nou Camp on Sunday at 11am BST. That is 3am PT and 6am ET.

Will it be to just say goodbye or is there a sensational U-turn in store?

How will Messi’s legacy change?

The purity of the Barcelona-Messi story had us all entranced. Him seemingly leaving the Nou Camp changes that for the worse.

The Athletic‘s Sebastian Stafford-Bloor explores how things won’t be the same in football after Messi’s departure from Barcelona.

How Lionel Messi could end up in the US eventually

Talks about Messi joining Paris Saint-Germain clicked into gear on Thursday evening and the French club are increasingly confident they will get their man, but a move to MLS has long been mooted.

Even if it is hard to picture the six-time Ballon d’Or moving to the US just yet, that is certainly not stopping some very persuasive people from doing so and a credible supporting cast is only encouraging them.

The Athletic understands there are two competing plans for moving Messi to America one day. Let’s be honest, we are dealing with ifs, buts and maybes here but they are well-informed ifs, buts and maybes. Caveats out of the way, find out more about the options below…

Spanish papers dedicate front covers to Laporta press conference

Spain’s sports newspapers have focused on Barcelona president Joan Laporta’s press conference that outlined the club’s explanation for Lionel Messi’s departure.

On Friday, Laporta blamed La Liga’s financial fair play rules for the club’s inability to sign Messi to a new contract and insisted that negotiations with the Argentine are “over”.

“Laporta points the finger at the guilty ones”, said the front cover of Barcelona-based newspaper Sport, while Mundo Deportivo highlighted the club president saying “Barca is above all else”.

Barcelona players bid farewell to Messi

As the stunning announcement of Messi’s departure starts to hit home, tributes to the Argentine from Barcelona players have begun to flood in.

Gerard Pique wrote a heartfelt goodbye on Instagram: “Nothing will ever be the same again. Not the Camp Nou, not the city of Barcelona, ​​not ourselves. After more than 20 years at the Club, you will stop wearing the Barça shirt. The reality, sometimes, is very harsh.

“We met in 2000, we were 13 years old and had a career ahead of us. What career! The mother who bore us! If we had designed it at that time, it was impossible to make it better.

“In my first season, after returning to FC Barcelona, ​​we won the treble and you became the best player of all time. From Rosario to touching the sky of Rome. That’s where the legend began. What came next is history. And what a good time we have!

“Now you are leaving, but I know that one day you will come back. There are pending things to do. Have fun, enjoy wherever you go and keep winning as only you know how to do. Here we will miss you. I love you Leo.”

Ansu Fati, touted by many as the heir to Messi’s throne, also bid farewell earlier, saying: “All the boys who come to the Masia dream of being able to play with you, I feel lucky to have fulfilled it.

“I wanted to thank you these two years for your gestures of affection towards me and for everything I learned.”

Member of Qatari royal family: Deal done

Khalifah Bin Hamad Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family, has tweeted that a deal is done.

“Negotiations are officially concluded. And announce later” he tweeted from his verified account.

Aguero’s camp deny reports

Mundo Deportivo, one of the two major sports newspapers based in Barcelona, have reported that Sergio Aguero’s camp “roundly denied” reports that the former Manchester City forward was considering his position after news of Messi’s departure.

He signed a contract until 2023 after his City contract expired in June.

The long, slow goodbye

Many people instinctively felt that the Barcelona statement released on Thursday was a bluff, noting the lack of goodbyes from Barcelona players and staff.

The reality appears to have hit some of them.

Ilaix Moriba, tipped as one of the most talented midfielders to come out of Barcelona’s academy in a few years, has bid his public farewell today.

“At 4 years old, I came from my country Guinea to fulfil my dream of being a footballer, but I never thought that one day I would play with the best player in the world and that he would give me an assist to score my first goal as a professional.

“All of Guinea, like all of my family and me only have words of thanks for everything. Many thanks and good luck in the future, Leo.”

And if you are wondering whether Moriba is doing the work of the club in putting that message out there, it’s worth noting that he is wrangling with the club over his own contract, with the youngster currently frozen out by Ronald Koeman for refusing to help the club out by signing an extension way below market rate. So it feels unlikely, and as if the genuine goodbyes are about to arrive for Messi.

Aguero future in doubt?

Reports in Catalunya (more specifically from local outlet Beteve)are suggesting that Sergio Aguero is rethinking his decision to sign for Barcelona before even playing a game for the club.

The Manchester City legend has been good friends with Messi since they were teenagers and much of the reasoning for moving to the Nou Camp was to play with the Barcelona captain.

But, fairly predictably, reports are now leaking out that Aguero may look to get out of his Barca agreement.

In truth, he probably should have smelled a rat when the club couldn’t register him (or any other new signings) because they were so drastically over the salary limit for La Liga.

We have normalised spending of such ludicrous excess that Aguero didn’t think twice about signing his deal while four or five players couldn’t even be registered!

Barca president: Messi negotiations are ‘over’

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has blamed La Liga’s financial fair play rules for the club’s inability to sign Lionel Messi to a new contract and has insisted that negotiations with the Argentine are “over”.

Barcelona said on Thursday that Messi will not be staying at the club “because of financial and structural obstacles”.

Messi, 34, has been a free agent since July 1 when his contract with the club expired.

“The results from the audit of our finances are much worse than we had expected, based on the official numbers,” Laporta said at a press conference on Friday. “That means losses are much higher than expected, and debt is much bigger too, which means that with the current contracts we have no margin.

“The agreement with Leo Messi had certain risks, and we were willing to take them on, but when we saw the situation of the club through this audit, we just had no margin after the calamitous previous board.

“I don’t want to generate false hopes. It is true that the player also has other offers, we heard that during the negotiations. There is also a deadline for us, La Liga is starting soon. The FFP is also clear and the player cannot stay in this (limbo) situation.”

Laporta also reiterated that negotiations with Messi have reached their conclusion and the greatest player in Barcelona’s history was leaving the club.

“The negotiation (with Messi) is over,” he added. “La Liga are not flexible with their salary limit, they would only do so if we mortgaged the broadcast rights of this club for half a century.”

Laporta also said that La Liga indicated Messi could be registered within the league’s financial rules if Barcelona agreed to investment from CVC. La Liga this week agreed a €2.7 billion (£2.3 billion) deal with CVC that could see private equity involved in the running of one of the biggest European football leagues for the first time.

He said “La Liga said they would have accepted Messi within their FFP if we accepted the operation they are doing (CVC). But we could not give up a part of our broadcast rights over a long period. We did not want to mortgage the future of the club. The club has to be above players, presidents, everyone.”

More from France

Pochettino has his say

Pochettino was asked about the possibility of signing Messi at his press conference on Friday, ahead of the club’s match against Troyes this weekend.

“We are focused on the start of the season,” he said.

“At the same time, we are focused on the club, which is working on the transfer window in a discreet way, and working to improve the team in whichever way possible to achieve the targets we set at the start of the season.

“In terms of Lionel Messi, we know what happened yesterday. I will not say anything different to that. We are fully focused on beating Troyes and starting the season well.

“At the same time, our sporting director and president are working hard to improve the team.”

PSG increasingly confident of signing Messi this summer

By Luke Brown

6 août 2021 at 19:03 CEST

Paris Saint-Germain have held talks with Lionel Messi’s representatives and are increasingly confident a deal to sign the 34-year-old this summer is feasible, after Barcelona announced his departure on Thursday.

The Athletic revealed yesterday that Messi himself made a direct approach to PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino, which triggered discussions to commence.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is leading the talks and the club’s operations team has already held discussions as to how commercial avenues can be maximised to reflect Messi’s stature.

The Athletic understands that PSG are aware Messi’s camp are also looking at other options, with the French club closely studying the feasibility of signing the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.

Messi is represented by his father, Jorge, who has represented his son throughout his career at Barcelona.

You can read more about this story here.

How many teams could afford Messi?

A reader asks how many teams could actually afford Lionel Messi, in a bid to narrow down where Messi could end up.

Some very basic calculations suggest that the following clubs could sign Messi at something approaching his previous financial terms and it wouldn’t cause insurmountable financial problems like we are witnessing in Barcelona:

  • Manchester City
  • Chelsea
  • Manchester United
  • Paris Saint-Germain

Liverpool could probably be included technically but they have not shown any willing to spend significant sums this summer, let alone handing out the biggest contract in global football. Bayern Munich don’t seem like they will do any business beyond the additions of Dayot Upamecano and Omar Richards, which had both been planned since early spring, but are now pushing for Marcel Sabitzer. That isn’t on the same level of financial commitment necessary to sign Messi. Juventus couldn’t afford Cristiano Ronaldo’s wages and Lionel Messi’s.

So it would appear that there are four feasible destinations for Messi in Europe, and potentially MLS or Argentina as a wild outside possibility. Messi has contacted PSG, while Man City had talks with Messi’s camp last year and also in 2016. City Football Group’s Omar Berrada told us in October that “if he leaves Barcelona and should Messi become something that can be discussed, then we could potentially explore that option.” Those clubs are the obvious frontrunners but whether City’s interest continues with Jack Grealish now on board and a concerted push for Harry Kane ongoing remains to be seen.

Chelsea’s current focus is Romelu Lukaku, though he would cost them £100m in transfer fees alone. Manchester United? Well, they just signed Jadon Sancho and are incredibly bullish on the prospects of their young forward line that includes homegrown prospects Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford. They could, however, afford to go and get Messi. Their name has never been mentioned, but it’s possible even if it isn’t probable.

Probably the worst thing for Messi is that this has come so late in the window. Back in May or June, he might have had six or seven potential suitors ready to bend their strategy to incorporate one of the sport’s best-ever players. Now, with 10 days to go until some of the biggest leagues resume? He’s further narrowed a market that was already narrowed by his own salarial demands.

Exclusive: Messi contacts Pochettino

An exclusive from The Athletic’s Adam Crafton, who reports that Lionel Messi contacted Mauricio Pochettino, the coach of Paris Saint-Germain, on Thursday about a move to the French capital.

There are more details in our (now updated) explainer on what is happening with Messi, including the commercial discussions PSG have already initiated.

What is the significance of La Liga’s deal with CVC?

On Wednesday, La Liga announced in principle a deal to sell 10% of its commercial operations to investors CVC, in exchange for €2.7 billion, 90% of which was to be shared among the 42 Primera and Segunda Division clubs.

Barca’s share of this money could be around €280 million, to be received over the next three years. This immediately led some fans and pundits to assume this would resolve the problem, that the salary limit imposed by La Liga would rise sufficiently to include Messi (and the other four new players).

But there were a couple of problems with that assumption. First, La Liga said that only 15% of the money being received by each club could be used for transfers or salaries, with the rest needing to be used for off-field things like infrastructure, marketing and brand development. That figure of 15% — €42 million over three years — was not going to be enough for Barcelona to pay all of the salary and bonuses which had been agreed.

The second issue was that Barca would not automatically be in favour of the CVC deal and in fact both they and Real released statements last night in opposition to it. Neither club were involved in the negotiations, and are not members of the 12-club committee which unanimously voted in favour of the idea on Wednesday. The Clasico clubs are concerned about giving up 10% of broadcast revenue far into the future (it’s a 50-year deal), and that a decision was made without consulting them. After all, both, in public at least, are still in favour of a European Super League.

Whether or not the CVC agreement does go through, with all 42 clubs set to vote on it next week, it does not seem closely linked to Messi’s future.

Where does Messi rank among best-paid athletes?

One of the key differences between European football and the American major leagues is that soccer operates in more of a free market environment, where teams can move up and down the leagues and player labour is compensated at a rate that a fairly efficient global market will decide.

In the American sports leagues of note, a limited number of franchises form a closed system. Depending on the sport, compensation for athletes is decided differently as they enter the league but all still use a salary cap system which would me no league in the USA could currently allow Lionel Messi to earn the $130m he took home last year (according to Forbes).

A leaked contract earlier this year showed that Messi could earn up to $165m if he hit all bonuses and incentives. That is 3x an entire NHL roster, and more than any NBA franchise spent on theirs last season.

While some people would argue that Messi – possibly the greatest player of all time – is overpaid, there is an argument that the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers are simply underpaid. Mahomes is shaping up as the best QB of his generation and earns around $40m per year. It’s a nice amount of money(!) but only a quarter of what Messi is taking home and that’s before endorsements etc.

European football’s open market allows Messi to be the second-highest earner of any athlete in the world, behind Conor McGregor, and after today’s news he appears to be a free agent looking for a new club.

Now to see if it turns into a bidding war.

Explained: Barcelona, Lionel Messi and what might happen next

Okay so it has taken a couple of hours but we at The Athletic have gathered our best writers to try and answer the key questions and help clear up what was happening with Messi, including:

  • Dermot Corrigan (Spanish Football correspondent)
  • Matt Slater (Sports Business correspondent)
  • Adam Crafton (Football correspondent)
  • Sam Lee (Manchester City correspondent)

You can read the answers in their comprehensive Q+A here.

The key is the finances

The hard reality is that Barcelona just cannot maintain the standard of squad that everyone around the Nou Camp has been used to for years.

Three seasons ago they had the highest wage bill in world sport, but over a decade of financial mismanagement has finally caught up with them and they can only afford a salary bill similar to that of Leicester City or Aston Villa. In La Liga terms they would be third – well adrift of Real Madrid and also behind Atletico Madrid, but still ahead of Sevilla, Valencia and Villarreal. That has to be faced up to, but there is no sign yet of that realisation having sunk in or of any real progress being made on the painful moves required to generate significant transfer profits and/or cut their wage bill.

Under La Liga’s rules, only 25 per cent of profits from transfers can be used to sign new players or to re-sign those whose contracts have expired. The other 75 per cent has to go to paying off debts. So while the money raised this summer by moving out squad players and youngsters Junior Firpo (Leeds United), Jean-Clair Todibo (Nice), Konrad de la Fuente (Marseille), Francisco Trincao (Wolverhampton Wanderers) and Carles Alena (Getafe) is a start but much more serious cuts are required.

La Liga does not make its salary limits public until after the season starts, so the following is guesswork but does give an idea of the type of dilemmas Barcelona face.

Let’s say they do have some success over the coming days, meaning Umtiti and Pjanic both leave and most of their senior players agree to defer a hefty portion of this season’s wages into the future. That would all be a big help, but it would probably not free up enough space to register Messi, never mind their four summer signings.

So difficult decisions will have to be made, with it very likely that someone at the club has to make a call over whether to register one player or another. Presumably, Koeman would prefer to have Depay over 33-year-old Aguero for that La Liga opener with Real Sociedad, but how is that communicated and handled?

Whether or not such tough decisions are being considered privately, in public Laporta continues to assert that it’s not such a big deal. Instead of making the super-painful cuts to the wage bill required, he has repeatedly publicly called for “flexibility” in La Liga’s financial controls.

Most recently in the statement announcing Messi’s departure…

What now for Sergio Aguero?

Sergio Aguero signed for Barcelona on a Bosman earlier this summer, but along with fellow new arrivals Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia he can’t be registered until Barca have worked out their financial issues and come under the salary limit.

Aguero and Messi are close friends, having played together since their teens for Argentina’s youth teams and then the senior national team, and the motivation of playing together was key in Aguero turning down approaches from elsewhere earlier this summer.

Few people will have a better idea of what is going on in Messi’s head than one of his closest friends in football, so the next time we hear from the former Manchester City striker might tell us a lot about which way we think this is going to go.

The official stance remains that Messi will not renew his Barca contract, but plenty of people in football will only believe that when they see him holding up the shirt of another team.

Are PSG interested in Messi?

Well the bookmakers might have Paris Saint-Germain as the most likely destination for Lionel Messi but reports in Le Parisien, a local paper with close links to the club, have poured cold water on that idea.

“After this latest news, nothing moves for Paris… The club remains calm and doesn’t consider the arrival of Messi an option.”

Now that could change if Messi is truly not going to return to the Nou Camp but, for now, the French champions are reportedly happy to let the best player of a generation pass them by.

Your responses

We asked you all where you thought Messi might be playing next season. Here are some of our favourite responses:

Rich H.

Most likely PSG, followed by Man City, the MLS or back to Argentina to Newell’s Old Boys? The latter is the most romantic ending.

Michael M.

I still think he’ll manage to work things out with Barcelona.

John L.

Real Madrid! It won’t just be a pig’s head being thrown at him, it will be a whole pig.

Jake H.

He’s always been keen on working under Bielsa, so he’s obviously coming to Leeds.

Uh oh…

Memphis Depay joined Barcelona on a free transfer from Lyon this summer and said one of the biggest factors in leaving France for Spain was his desire to play alongside Lionel Messi.

“We are all attackers, but all different in my opinion,” he said at his unveiling, as cited by SPORT.

“I have abilities and strong points different to Aguero, for example, or any player.

“I believe that the three of us are compatible and different, but we are going to see how everything goes.”

What next?

Plenty. But in the short-term: Laporta will stage a press conference at 10am GMT to explain Messi’s departure from Barcelona.

What deadline are Barcelona working towards?

If this is a bluff, and that’s a big bluff, the crucial date in the calendar is August 31 — the end of the transfer window, and also the last day to register players for the new La Liga season.

UEFA’s deadline for the final list of players for the Champions League group stage is September 2, and its rules state players must be registered to play in their domestic leagues before being submitted for European ones. So if La Liga doesn’t agree by August 31, Messi cannot be included in the squad for the Champions League group phase.

Could this be a bluff from Barcelona?

What was unusual about the Barcelona statement announcing Messi’s departure was that they expressly blamed the “league rules”.

Now, you can’t exactly have expected Barcelona to come out and say “we’ve been struggling to get under the salary limit because we’ve been financially mismanaged to an almost comical degree for the past decade and all of our overpaid players won’t take voluntary salary cuts” but blaming La Liga works doubly as a flimsy excuse and a targeted threat.

La Liga has always had a push-pull relationship with its two biggest clubs, with the Super League the latest chapter in those chronicles of mistrust. Barca have tried and they simply can’t work out how to fit all their players into the required financial framework to compete in La Liga next season.

This statement today could be read as Messi’s contract renewal being impossible, and thus the Argentine walking away from the club where he has spent 20 years. That’s certainly the simplest explanation, and leads to a ton of interesting questions.

Or it could be read as Barcelona saying that if you don’t provide some flexibility in that financial framework, the face of the league will be heading to either Paris Saint-Germain or the Premier League. And they know the league needs his star power more than ever.

It’s something to think about as this plays out.

What else could Barcelona do?

Losing Lionel Messi was definitely not the way Barcelona hoped to solve their financial crisis.

The Spanish club have also been trying to move on numerous high earners, including the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Martin Braithwaite and Samuel Umtiti.

But the club have not been able to find any potential suitors, which is not surprising given their large contracts. And so they have failed to register Messi ahead of the new La Liga season.

How significant would Messi’s exit be?

Think Messi is over the hill at 34-years-old? Think again. Here is everything the Spanish club are going to be missing.

  • Barcelona’s record scorer with 672 goals.
  • Has won 10 La Liga titles.
  • Four Champions Leagues.
  • Seven Copas del Rey.
  • Won the Ballon d’Or on a record six occasions.

Has this happened before?

Messi may be synonymous with Barcelona but this is not the first time the six-time Ballon d’Or winner has attempted to leave the club.

Messi made a serious attempt to depart in August 2020, making a formal request for an exit after a breakdown in his relationship with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

His successor, Joan Laporta, however convinced Messi to remain.

What is Messi’s current situation?

Messi has been a free agent since July 1, when his contract expired.

But the 34-year-old had been expected to sign a new five-year contract with the club, which would have seen his salary reduced by 50 per cent.

That is apparently no longer the case.

But what about his options?

Last summer, Messi’s options had seemed to be either Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain, with the two Gulf state-backed clubs the only ones realistically able to match his demands.

Had he forced his way out of Barcelona and been available on a free transfer, he would most likely have reunited with his former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola at City. If not, he would have teamed up again with his ex-Blaugrana team-mate Neymar at PSG.

theathletic.com | gulfmorningnews.com

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