'Very happy' Lionel Messi ready to play with the best at PSG
- Lionel Messi has joined PSG on a two-year-deal, with an option of an one-year extension
- Messi represented Barcelona for 21 years
- At PSG he will partner with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the attacking line
Addressing the press on Wednesday at his introductory news conference at Parc des Princes stadium, Messi said, "It’s been a very hard move after so many years, it was a difficult change after so much time, but the moment I arrived here I felt very happy."
The 34-year-old Argentina star signed a two-year deal with the option for a third season after leaving Barcelona.
At PSG, Messi will be seen partnering with France World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe and Brazil forward, his former teammate, Neymar to make one of the most formidable attacking lines in Europe. The Paris-based club also signed Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, Giorgino Wijnaldum from Liverpool and Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan this summer.
“I’m going to play with best players, it’s very nice, it’s incredible to be able to experience this," Messi said.
While PSG had to pay 222 million euros (then $261 million) to sign Neymar from Barcelona in 2017, there was no transfer fee for Messi.
"It's an ambitious club. You can see they're ready to fight for everything. My dream is to win another Champions League, and I think this is the ideal place to be to do that," Messi said in his first press conference as a PSG player.
"I need a bit of a pre-season and get myself going. Hopefully debuting can be soon but I can't give you a date. It's up to the coaches," he added.
No salary details were given, but a person with knowledge of the negotiations earlier told The Associated Press that Messi is set to earn around 35 million euros ($41 million) net annually. The person said on condition of anonymity before the contract was signed.
Messi became the most high-profile free agent in soccer history after his attempts to stay at Barcelona were rejected last week by the Spanish league because the salary would not comply with financial regulations, with the Catalan club burdened by debts of more than 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion).
PSG supporters have seen their club transformed over the last decade since the influx of Qatari sovereign wealth investment linked to the emir. Once Messi’s Barcelona contract expired — and the Catalan club was unable to afford to keep him — PSG was one of the few clubs that could finance a deal to sign the six-time world player of the year.
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino quickly made contact with his fellow Argentine after Barcelona announced last Thursday that Messi would be leaving the club he joined as a 13-year-old boy.
Messi won every major honor with Barcelona and was granted a tearful exit news conference on Sunday to signal the end of an era. Only Cristiano Ronaldo in the current era challenges Messi’s status as an all-time great.
PSG will be hoping not only that Messi helps the team regain the French title it lost to Lille last season but finally win the Champions League.
Messi will wear the No. 30 jersey — the same number he wore in his first two seasons with Barcelona before switching to No. 19 and then the prized No. 10, which Neymar gets to keep at PSG.
Messi is expected to be presented to fans at Parc des Princes stadium before the kickoff of Saturday night’s game against Strasbourg.
With AP inputs