Lionel Messi’s final days at Barcelona and how he ended up at Paris Saint-Germain

Lionel Messi's final days at Barcelona and how he ended up at Paris Saint-Germain

Lionel Messi sat at home in Castelldefels, a seaside resort in the Barcelona suburbs, on Monday, waiting for his transfer to Paris Saint-Germain to be finalised. Last Thursday, it was revealed that he would not be able to return to Barcelona; negotiations with the French club have been underway since then.

Lionel Messi’s final days at Barcelona and how he ended up at Paris Saint-Germain

When Barca revealed that “economic constraints” had prevented them from completing the five-year contract they had negotiated with Messi, the world’s media were waiting to see what he would do next. Video journalists from international news organisations were stationed at his home, at Barcelona and Paris airports, at the Paris hospital where PSG’s new signings normally undergo medicals, and at the French club’s headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt. The image was ultimately released on Tuesday as Messi, who joined Barcelona at the age of 13 and spent 21 years there, was heading to the airport. Luis Suarez, a former teammate and close friend, had left minutes before after spending the previous two days at Messi’s home. Messi, no longer a one-club guy, was introduced by PSG later that day, signing a two-year deal with the Ligue 1 team.

His every move throughout the day had already been tracked by camera crews all over Paris before the club finally released a drone video that took viewers on a dramatic tour of the club shop and stadium before focusing in on Messi, who was standing in the centre spot at the Parc des Princes after his move was completed. Messi had expressed his desire to leave Barcelona a year ago. Sources told ESPN at the time that Manchester City was his favourite destination club, though PSG was also in the running. He didn’t want to leave this time, though. Messi claimed in a December interview with journalist Jordi Evole that he would wait until the end of the 2020-21 season to make a decision on his future. He had been increasingly clear by the end of the campaign that he intended to stay. Joan Laporta’s return as president had been crucial to his comeback. When Messi first joined Barca’s first team, Laporta was the president. He was also president when Pep Guardiola was named manager, and he oversaw a period of supremacy that included Messi, Xavi Hernandez, and Andres Iniesta leading Barcelona to their first triple in 2009. The athlete and his father, Jorge, had a good relationship with the dynamic lawyer.

Laporta had lunch with Messi shortly after being re-elected in March for a second term, and Messi has subsequently stated that he left that meeting sure that his relationship with Barcelona will be extended. With each passing week, though, the actual nature of Barca’s financial woes became clearer. The club’s gross debt was approaching €1.2 billion, and LaLiga president Javier Tebas warned that they would not be allowed to sign a new deal for Messi unless they made significant cuts. (It’s still unclear whether they’ll be able to register their summer additions before the league starts this weekend: Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero, Eric Garcia, and Emerson Royal were all ostensibly brought in to keep Messi happy.) Barcelona attributed their inability to maintain Messi on financial difficulties, but the story goes far deeper. Years of mismanagement and extravagance were involved, as was a conflict between LaLiga and its top two clubs, a falling out between two of Barca’s most important figures in recent history, a late narrative twist, and rushed discussions in Paris that lasted late into the night. All of this helped to make a dream come true for Qatar Sports Investments, which bought PSG in 2011. After a record-breaking 672 goals in 778 games and 35 championships in 16 sparkling seasons, one of the game’s greatest-ever players was forced to leave his boyhood club.

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