If there was still doubt in the past 48 hours, there is now complete clarity: Lionel Messi will not be a PSG player next season.
The Argentine international’s contract ends in June, and even if the club and the player agreed in principle in November to continue the adventure together, things have changed dramatically since the beginning of the year. It’s over and those relationships have cracked, so Messi’s team will start to see where he plays for the 2023-24 season.
The final chapter in the difficult relationship between Messi and PSG is also, in essence, the last straw for the club, so let’s review where things went wrong.
The 2022 World Cup winner has been suspended for two weeks after missing Monday’s training session without permission due to sponsorship obligations in Saudi Arabia. He will not be paid, nor will he be allowed to train or play for the first team. Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of Paris Saint-Germain, was on a business trip in the United States when he heard of Messi’s absence, and decided to be tough.
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The instructions from the coaching staff were clear: if PSG beat Lorient last Sunday, the players would have Monday and Tuesday off. If they don’t, they only have Tuesday off. In the end, they lost 3-1 at home at the Parc des Princes, putting on one of their worst performances of the season. Achraf Hakimi was sent off for two bookable offenses in the first 20 minutes after Lorient’s early goal, and things quickly fell apart even after Kylian Mbappe equalised.
For a long time, the French champions have been lenient with their stars. Many stars, especially Neymar, have gotten away with a lot of bad discipline. Not this time. The liberties taken by the World Cup winner were seen as a step too far, which is why the club took an exemplary stance. Not since the club was taken over by the Qatari owners, in 2011, has a player been suspended in this way and for so long. However, now it happened, and it was done to the greatest player of all time.
Does this mean the end of Messi’s story in Paris? certainly.
Does Messi care about that and the penalty? Obviously not.
Messi knew that traveling to Saudi Arabia on a “working day” without the go-ahead from the club was unacceptable, but he went regardless. He has been named the country’s “tourism ambassador” in 2022, having made at least three trips in the past year as part of his contractual obligations to visit. He had to postpone this trip twice due to logistical problems, and was reportedly unwilling to do it again. However, the perception is that he did not respect his club enough to report for mandatory training after losing Lorient, their third in their last four home matches.
However, even before this latest incident, his future wasn’t entirely clear. After news before the 2022 World Cup that they had agreed in principle to sign a new deal, the meetings between Jorge Messi (Lionel Messi’s father) and the club in February and March came to nothing. For those in the room, it felt as if neither party really wanted to go on together. PSG has reportedly asked their superstar to take a pay cut, knowing it is something he would never accept.
In addition, people at the club were no longer convinced that there were legitimate grounds in the field to keep him. Messi shone in the French First Division, where he is still very good in most matches against most opponents, but he notably failed in the Champions League, with a poor performance against Bayern Munich in which he showed his limitations. Messi was ostensibly recruited to help the team win the Champions League; With him, they lost twice in the round of 16.
Meanwhile, Messi’s team liked the interest of Inter Miami, Barcelona and Al-Hilal – only the Saudi club at this time made an offer for the 35-year-old (he will turn 36 in June). ) this summer, according to ESPN sources. Simple things, such as the fact that Messi’s three children are not enrolled in a school in Paris for the next year, are a good indication that the family does not want to stay in France. Their dream is to return to Barcelona, of course, but his former club will need to make a financial offer that is not only suitable for Messi, but acceptable to LaLiga and wage rules. Given Barcelona’s well-documented financial issues, there is still a long way to go before they can begin to truly believe in the return of the prodigal son.
However, Al-Hilal’s offer is still on the table, and Messi is clearly keeping all his options open. Until this week, Paris Saint-Germain was one of them. That’s not the case anymore, and it’s certainly not the end many people imagined – including PSG and Messi himself. But there is no going back now.