By Andrew Warshaw
August 11 – The tears of heartbreak and disappointment have given way to smiles of optimism.After finally signing for Paris St Germain on a two-year contract after leaving behind his beloved Barcelona, Lionel Messi has vowed to make an instant success of his new home.
The 34-year-old superstar, whose wage demands prevented him staying in Catalonia, declared he was “in the right place” to deliver the one trophy PSG crave above all others – the Champions League.
At his introductory news conference at Parc des Princes today, Messi said he was lured to Paris by the quality of Mauricio Pochettino’s squad though in truth there were only two or three clubs who could afford him.
“My goal and dream is to raise another Champions League Trophy and I believe that I am in the right place to have the best chances to achieve that,” said Messi. “When you see this squad, you really want to play with them because there are so many possibilities.”.
Qatari-backed PSG has been desperate to win Europe’s most prized club competition, having fallen just short when losing the 2020 final to Bayern Munich. Messi, by contrast, helped Barcelona win four Champions League trophies.
Messi’s arrival gives PSG an eye-watering embarrassment of riches up front as he links up with not only Neymar – his former teammate at Barcelona – but also France World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe. However it also puts considerable pressure on Pochettino to deliver.
“I’m going to play with best players, it’s very nice, it’s incredible to be able to experience this,” said Messi, who also cited Argentina teammates Ángel di Maria and Leandro Paredes.
“Obviously, one of the reasons (I came) was the locker room: Neymar, Dí María, Paredes, whom I know.”
Messi, the most high-profile free agent in history and six-time Ballon d’Or winner, is likely to start Saturday’s home game against Strasbourg in the opening round of the season.
With Barca burdened by debts of more than €1.2 billion, PSG moved quickly to end Messi’s 21-year love affair in Catalonia. While PSG had to pay €222 million to sign Neymar from Barcelona in 2017, there was no transfer fee involved though it is reported Messi is set to earn around €35 million net annually.
Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi praised “a historic day for the club, football world and it is a fantastic moment for us.”
“Everybody knows Leo… He makes the football magic, beautiful and he’s a winner. It will be very exciting for our supporters and the fans worldwide. He did not hide his desire to continue to evolve at the highest level and to win trophies. The ambition of the club is of course identical.”
“The addition of Leo to our world-class team confirms the relevance and success of our recruitment. Together with our great coach and his staff, I look forward to seeing our team make history for all of our supporters around the world.”
Messi will wear the No. 30 shirt – the same number he wore in his first two seasons with Barcelona. The deal also has the option of a third year.
“I am impatient to start a new chapter of my career in Paris. The club and its vision are in perfect harmony with my ambitions,” said the Argentina star.
“I know how talented the players and staff are here. I am determined to build, alongside them, something great for the club and for the fans. I can’t wait to set foot on the Parc des Princes pitch.”
Messi is aware that in order to lift the Champions league for his new club, he may have to face Barcelona en route.
“Barcelona is my home – I have been there since I was a kid and I’ve lived so many things there. I don’t know if we are going to face each other – it would be very nice to go back to Barcelona. It will be very strange to play there in Barcelona with another shirt.”
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