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Messi’s Parisian nightmare

Messi’s Parisian nightmare

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Lionel Messi’s arrival at Paris Saint-Germain was supposed to be the icing on the cake for the French club. He’s now getting booed. What’s gone wrong?

Lionel Messi joining Paris Saint-Germain was the most seismic transfer in recent times.

Whilst Neymar joining the Ligue Un club may have eclipsed it in monetary terms, Messi’s move shook the football landscape.

150,000 replica shirts were sold in under seven minutes when they were first released by the club.

Lionel Messi described his move and the club’s vision to become a global footballing powerhouse as the ‘perfect harmony’.

But as his first season in Paris enters its final stages, those chants have turned into boos.

Boos and whistling greeted Lionel Messi’s involvement in their recent 3-0 victory over Bordeaux.

That’s right – a victory over Bordeaux.

The booing was a culmination of what has been a tumultuous time for Lionel Messi – so why him?

Reading out a list of the number of goals Lionel Messi has scored in the past seven seasons is like listening to the National Lottery: 58, 41, 54, 45, 51, 31, 38.

This season? He’s got seven. Only two of them have been in the league. 10 PSG players have scored more goals in Ligue Un than him this season.

Admittedly, he’s got ten assists – the join highest in the league – but he just isn’t the same player as he was at Barcelona.

His age does come into consideration here – at 34 years old, you’d expect to see a slight decline in performance. 

There’s also the fact that his move from Barcelona to PSG caused him such personal upheaval.

He didn’t particularly want to leave Barcelona, but the Spanish club were in such financial trouble they couldn’t afford to keep him, and joining a Galaticos team, with the likes of his old friend Neymar, and young superstar Kylian Mbappe, looked like an attractive option. 

But Lionel Messi is far from the only problem at PSG. In fact, whilst the fans have turned on him, he’s a totemic figure for the club’s underlying issues.

We knew they were going to get booed and whistled, et cetera, we knew there were going to be banners, and there were banners, asking Leonardo to get sacked, and Nasser Al-Khelaifi to get sacked as well… 

ESPN

Paris Saint-Germain are now a club judged purely on their success – or lack thereof – in the Champions League. 

They are expected to win Ligue Un, their domestic league, every season, and by and large they do – they’ve won seven of the past nine titles.

So their European form is what really matters, and of late it has been a litany of failures. 

Their latest exit – beaten by Real Madrid in the Round of 16 despite being 2-0 up on aggregate with only half an hour of the tie remaining – was a humiliation. The usual language was used again to describe PSG in Europe. Chokers. Bottlers. 

And it was this that sparked the fans’ latest fury. 

The PSG ‘Ultras’ – the Collectif Ultras Paris – are an influential group of fans, and after the club’s exit in the Champions League, released a statement and they really didn’t hold back. 

It said: 

How can you have a genuine game plan when your squad is nothing but a bunch of ‘stars’ who barely compliment one another?

How can a coach be the respected boss of the changing room when he is manifestly not the true decision maker?

How can you regenerate a squad when endless subs can happily see out their contracts with such comfortable salaries?

How can you feel the immutable force of the history of your club when their colours alternate between black, fuchsia, pink, yellow…?

How can you want to change everything for the people of Paris when you settle for waving to them from the penalty spot and when you’re more often seen at Fashion Week than at a meeting with the representatives of your own fans?

We don’t have a short memory. We know what our return owes to President Nasser Al-Khelaïfi but it is clear he is not the man for the job. The club’s current situation requires complete reorganisation at all levels going forward and the daily presence of its president.

Paris Saint-Germain Ultras statement

It was strong stuff from supporters of a team that is, by and large, successful.

Some rival fans won’t have too much sympathy with a club who have got a bottomless pit of money, and some of the world’s best players. 

But what PSG’s fans have recognised is that with the money comes a loss of identity. 

Just a faceless, corporate entity, disembodied from the fans who have been with the club before they were cash rich.

The problem isn’t just Lionel Messi – he’s just a symbol of Parisian malaise.

Today’s episode was written by Andrew Butler, and produced by Xavier Greenwood.