Messi, After Signing With P.S.G., Is Greeted With Cheers in Paris
PARIS – When Lionel Messi said goodbye to Barcelona, his home since childhood and the place where he became one of the greatest footballers of all time, he was in tears.
Three days later, when he was officially introduced on Wednesday by his new club, Paris St.-Germain, the tears in the crowd were expressions of joy.
“It’s wonderful,” said Alexandre Marienne, 32, carrying his 8-year-old son Kamil on his shoulders. “He’s going to help us build something amazing – Paris is definitely in competition with the big names now.”
When Messi addressed reporters, sitting next to club president Nasser al-Khelaifi, he said leaving Barcelona was “a very difficult time” but that he was “very happy” to be in Paris.
“I still want to play and I still want to win,” he said. “I want to keep growing and keep winning titles.”
It was the culmination of a few breathtaking days, in which Barcelona fans and players bid farewell to the club’s greatest player, while in the French capital PSG fans hold their breath, many unable to understand. what was happening.
Messi reiterated that he did not want to leave the club which made him what he is, that he did “everything to stay”. His dedicated fans wanted him to stay at Barcelona. The club wanted him to stay in Barcelona.
But the financial forces that drive the game were more important than individual or collective desire. The club couldn’t afford Messi, even after offering to cut his salary in half.
So here he is, in Paris, on the verge of playing in French Ligue 1, where financial rules similar to those binding Barcelona’s hands will not come into force for a few years.
“By the time I got here I felt very happy,” he said.
Rarely has an athlete of the modern era been so associated with a single team. Perhaps Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls are the closest comparison for American sports fans.
But Messi’s bond with Barcelona ran deeper: he arrived at the club when he was just 13 years old.
So it was an odd sight to see him wearing the jersey other than the one sporting the familiar Barcelona colors.
But the legions of fans who have welcomed him to his new hometown have opened their arms in an embrace that, for now, has overshadowed the darker message his transfer sent about the sport Messi has so dominated.
They did not come to discuss the danger of the immense advantage that a small number of super rich clubs have in buying and keeping players.
They came just to see Messi.
Men and women, many with their children by their side, came from all over Paris and other far and near French cities. Some were not at all French. But they were all linked by Messi.
They gathered at the Parc des Princes, the stadium of Paris Saint-Germain, to see their talisman, which arrived in the French capital on Tuesday and signed a two-year contract with the French club.
Mr Messi called the ecstatic reception “crazy” and said he was delighted to get back to football with some of the best players in the world.
For many, the signing came as no surprise: State of Qatar-funded PSG were just one of the few clubs that could afford the 34-year-old Argentine star.
Yet countless supporters still couldn’t believe it.
“It’s just a crazy thing – we weren’t even dreaming about it,” said Yohan Aymon, a 19-year-old PSG fan and forward from FC Sion, a Swiss club, who drove from his native Switzerland during the race. night.
Since Qatar became the largest shareholder of Paris Saint-Germain in 2012, supporters have seen a steady stream of the world’s most expensive players arrive.
From Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Neymar, from David Beckham to Kylian Mbappé, from Gianluigi Buffon to Sergio Ramos, no club has signed so many stars in the past 10 years.
This has drawn criticism from countless clubs, players and managers in France and abroad, who argue that the competition is now unfair and biased in favor of state-sponsored teams like PSG or Manchester City.
But none of them, it seems, compare to Messi’s arrival. Fans lined up around the stadium at dawn on Wednesday, chanting and shouting as a giant photo of the player graced the Parc des Princes, less than a day after Messi’s face was removed from Camp Nou in Barcelona .
“He made football magical, beautiful, and he’s a winner,” the PSG president said of Messi, as he stood by his side at a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s no secret he is the best player in the world.”
Messi will earn 35 million euros per season, or around 41 million dollars, and will wear the number 30, which he had at Barcelona from 2004 to 2006. Neymar will retain his number 10.
“We are entering a new dimension,” said Mr Marienne, who said he moved his vacation to the south of France with his family to see Messi. “The possibilities for PSG seem limitless now.”
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