February 27, 2024

Messi And PSG: A Toxic Relationship Begging For Separation

Written by Olaleye Oluwadamilola

Having signed for PSG in the 2021 summer transfer window from Catalan side Barcelona after a trophy laden 20 years career with the Spanish giants, many would have thought that Messi’s arrival at the French capital will bring good tidings and triumph especially in the UEFA champions league which the Qatari owned club and its supporters has so much desired but the relationship in just two years has gone from bad to worse for all parties involved.

PSG are without the prestigious title having won everything there is to win in the French league but their woeful run in the UCL has been a sore wound in the hearts of the owners who have invested so much in the club since the takeover.

Despite his long stay at Barcelona, Messi dire desire of glories with his national team side Argentina couldn’t come to fruition times and times again even when he does everything right at club level especially breaking the country’s long term wait for a World Cup honor since the days of Diego Maradona who is late now.

His long wait to cement himself in the history of La Albiceleste finally came to an end as Argentina defeated defending champions France at the Qatar 2022 World Cup to emerge as world champions.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Messi has won a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, a record six European Golden Shoes, and in 2020 was named to the Ballon d’Or Dream Team hence the defining reason behind PSG’s fight to have him at the club as they look to him to replicate such a massive career he had in Spain in the French capital.

Prior to leaving the club in 2021, he had spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, where he won a club-record 35 trophies, including 10 La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles and four UEFA Champions Leagues. With his country, he won the 2021 Copa América and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Following growing dissatisfaction with the direction of Barcelona on and off the field, Barcelona announced that Messi sent the club “a document expressing his desire to leave” on 25 August 2020 but didn’t leave until 2021.

As it turned out, it was neither of those things with Barca, who were in a €1.35 billion debt following years of overspending and the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, simply could not afford to give Messi a new contract and had to let him go to French side Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

In the year since, the move has made a big mark on his former club in Spain and his new club in France, while Messi’s future after the 2022-23 season looks cloudier than ever too. His contract with PSG expires on June 30, 2023, although there is an option to extend it for another season.

Since his arrival, Messi hasn’t replicated his sublime performances he had while at Barcelona in PSG with the club ultras furious at him when he has little or no impact in crucial games like in the UEFA Champions League games which led to incessant boo from his own fans in recent times.

BRUGGE, BELGIUM – SEPTEMBER 15: Lionel Messi of Paris Saint-Germain during the UEFA Champions League match between Club Brugge v Paris Saint Germain at the Jan Breydel Stadium on September 15, 2021 in Brugge Belgium (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)

It’s true that you only really notice the difference when these superstars leave. That said, the difference was obvious from the first day Messi arrived in the French capital. It felt like a city-wide party and, regardless of how it ends, it will remain the biggest transfer in French football history. Not only did it shake up the league, but it changed everything.

The first significant consequence is financial. As PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi, former sporting director Leonardo and general manager Jean-Claude Blanc were finalizing the signing, big brands from around the world were already calling the club’s marketing department to work with the Ligue 1 side and associate their brands with Messi’s new team.

By January 2022, only five months after Messi’s arrival — PSG had more new sponsors (eight) than Messi had scored goals (six). Dior were among the new signups, reveling in having Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar as ambassadors. Nike and Coca-Cola also extended their partnerships with PSG, committing more money.

But beyond this groundbreaking deals, the club is begging for European success which will give them a edge in football affairs considering how much they have invested into the team.

On the pitch, the difference was not so evident, though. Messi struggled to adapt to his new life, new city, new culture and all the changes that came with it. His three sons were not happy at first and his wife, Antonella, missed Barcelona. Even Hulk, the family’s French mastiff dog, was sad. There was so much to absorb, from Paris’ crazy traffic to finding a new school for the boys, a new house and a new routine.

Then there was the football. Messi didn’t have the best preseason preparations due to his participation in the Copa America — where Messi and Argentina beat Brazil in the final — and because of everything that happened with Barcelona. He was not ready when he arrived, and had to play catch up with his fitness for most of the season. He also contracted COVID-19 in the winter and struggled to shake it off.

It was a new dressing room, too. There were familiar faces and friends in the form of Neymar, Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria, but he was not the boss anymore. Some language barriers proved to be an issue, and he stayed close to Di Maria and Paredes.

On top of that, his relationship with Mauricio Pochettino before his exit was not great. They didn’t always see eye to eye as both tried to make the best of their situation, with Messi notably unhappy with being substituted before the end of a game against Lyon. The look he gave his manager said it all.

Messi ended the campaign with 11 goals and 15 assists in 34 appearances in all competitions and also hit the woodwork 11 times in Ligue 1 alone, which is more than anyone else in Europe. He had some highs — his goals against Manchester City at the Parc des Princes, his hat trick of assists at Saint-Etienne — but he also had some anonymous games as PSG won Ligue 1, but crashed out of the Champions League in the round of 16 to Real Madrid.

Back to the current 2022/2023 season, Messi whose contract expires at the end of the season has had a miserable start to the New Year and the season hasn’t been so convincing on the pitch for both parties. Their UCL woe continued as they were dumped out of the only elusive trophy in their cabinet in the round 16 and couldn’t score any goals in both legs of the game with Messi failing to make any impact to salvage their season.

They were also dumped out of the Coup de France round 16 by Marseille coupled with many injuries to key players and also exit of influential figures which they haven’t replaced although they still have an eight point lead behind second placed team on the French Ligue 1 log, a season many of the PSG ultras considered a total failure.

The club has offered the golden ball World Cup winner an extension but he has repeatedly turned it down as he isn’t convinced with the Paris project with a move to David Beckham’s MLS side Inter Miami and a return back to Barcelona on the cards but the player and his camp are yet to make an official stand on where he will continue next season.

It has been a rollercoaster of a toxic relationship between PSG and Messi filled of thrills, upsets, not so good moments especially on the pitch, maybe it’s time the Argentine call his exit and out of the limelight so he can get some time to get over his bitter Barcelona exit and frequent subjection to the anger of a passionate PSG fans who feels they deserve more from the World Cup winner.

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