Paris, Aug 10 (EFE).- Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday announced the signing of soccer legend Lionel Messi to a two-year contract, a deal that includes an option to extend for a third season.
The 34-year-old Argentine comes to France’s Ligue 1 after having compiled one of the greatest resumes in the sport’s history over 17 seasons with FC Barcelona, including a record six Ballon d’Or awards, 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns.
“I’m excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain. Everything about the club matches my football ambitions,” Messi, who according to multiple news reports will make a net annual salary of around 35 million euros ($41 million), was quoted as saying in an article on the club’s website.
“I know how talented the squad and the coaching staff are here. I’m determined to help build something special for the club and the fans, and I’m looking forward to stepping out onto the pitch at the Parc des Princes.”
A large crowd of journalists and fans were on hand to welcome Messi upon his arrival Tuesday at Paris-Le Bourget Airport.
He arrived in the French capital in the company of his wife Antonela Roccuzzo; their children Thiago, Mateo and Ciro; his personal assistant and the former head of Barcelona’s office of players services, Pepe Costa; and his father and agent, Jorge Messi.
Messi, who bid a tearful goodbye to FC Barcelona at a Sunday press conference, was unable to ink a new contract with the LaLiga club due to “financial and structural obstacles,” the team said in a statement last Thursday that attributed the problem to Spanish league regulations.
The superstar forward provides a further boost to an already talent-laden roster of players that includes Neymar Jr., his former teammate at Barcelona; and Kylian Mbappe, a key member of the French side that won the 2018 World Cup and the top goal scorer in Ligue 1 for the past three seasons.
PSG will be looking to regain their dominance in Ligue 1 after finishing second to surprising Lille in 2020-2021, although the addition of Messi has the club’s fans expecting Mauricio Pochettino’s men to capture a maiden Champions League title.
The Parisian club reached the final of Europe’s biggest annual club competition in 2020 but lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich.
Thanks to an exemption to a Ligue 1 rule that reserves certain numbers for goalkeepers, Messi will sport the No. 30 jersey that he wore in his first two seasons at Barcelona.
Messi had worn No. 10 for more than a decade, but Neymar Jr. will keep that number at PSG despite having offered to cede it to the Argentine.
PSG’s chairman and CEO, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, said the arrival of Messi “continues a very strategic and successful transfer window for the club.”
“I’m 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,” he added.
PSG was a second-tier European side until Qatar Sports Investments acquired a majority stake in the club in 2011 and began spending heavily with a goal of catching up to and then overtaking the top teams in England, Spain and Germany.
But despite landing the two most expensive transfers in soccer history – Neymar Jr. and Mbappe, who arrived from Barcelona and Monaco, respectively – and also signing other marquee players such as Angel Di Maria, Keylor Navas and Marquinhos, Al-Khelaifi has not yet been able to get the club over the hump.
Now the club owned by a branch of oil-rich Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has made its biggest splash yet with the signing of Messi, who has joined the club after it made previous summer moves for star Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and veteran Spanish defender Sergio Ramos, who won four Champions League titles as a member of Real Madrid.
PSG will hold a press conference on Wednesday at 11 am at Parc des Princes to officially introduce Messi, now the biggest superstar on a club with an embarrassment of riches. EFE