PARIS (AFP) – As Lionel Messi comes to Paris this week with Barcelona in the Champions League, the inevitable temptation is to think ahead to next season and wonder if the Argentine might be a regular fixture in the French capital.
That remains the nightmare scenario for Barcelona fans, even if their new president Joan Laporta announced following his election victory on Sunday that he was “convinced he wants to stay”.
Barcelona, like Real Madrid, fear the threat to their status at the top of the European game posed by Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City.
On the evidence of the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, PSG have bypassed Barca. Their 4-1 win at the Camp Nou means it would take a stunning turnaround in today’s return to stop them reaching the quarter-finals.
A move to one of Spain’s giants was long seen as the pinnacle for any player, but times have changed, as proven by Neymar’s transfer to Paris for a world record EUR222 million (USD264 million at the time) in 2017.
PSG and City are probably the only likely destinations for Messi should he leave. But could a switch to Paris really happen?
“Great players like Messi will always be on PSG’s list,” insisted the French champions’ sporting director Leonardo in a January interview with France Football magazine.
“We are sat at the big table with all those who are keeping a close eye on it. Well, we are not sat down yet, but we have reserved a seat just in case.”
Neymar would be delighted to team up with the Argentine again. “It’s what I most want,” he told ESPN in December.
PSG would not need to pay a transfer fee, and Messi – who turns 34 in June – would be joining a club surely better placed in the short term to win the Champions League.
He would also be teaming up with a coach in Mauricio Pochettino who is a fellow Argentine.
Indeed, Pochettino was born in Murphy in the province of Santa Fe, just 150 kilometres from Messi’s home city, Rosario. Both started playing at Newell’s Old Boys.
“I have to be careful not to talk about players who are at other clubs,” Pochettino said of Messi in an interview with AFP last week.