Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi received a hero’s welcome after flying to France yesterday to join Paris Saint Germain (PSG) following his shock departure from Barcelona.
The agreement to sign the 34-year-old Argentine is a major coup for wealthy PSG, who will add one of the best soccer players of all time to an already formidable front line that includes Brazil’s Neymar and young Frenchman Kylian Mbappe.
Wearing a T-shirt that read “This is Paris,” Messi beamed and waved at scores of fans who had come to greet him at Le Bourget airport on the outskirts of the French capital after his flight from Barcelona.
Chanting “Messi, Messi, Messi,” the fans cheered and let off firecrackers.
“It’s going to be mad. After all, it’s a legend who is arriving,” said Florent Chauveau, a PSG fan who has been back and forth to the airport every day since Sunday in the hope of seeing Messi arrive.
Messi gave no details of the deal, which was reached days after Barcelona said it could not afford to keep the midfielder because of Spain’s La Liga’s fair play rules.
But his father, speaking to reporters at Barcelona’s airport, confirmed reports by French newspaper L’Equipe and Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo that Messi had reached an agreement with PSG, which is owned by Qatar Sports Investment.
L’Equipe said the deal would be for two years. It also said that a news conference to mark his arrival will hold today.
PSG did not comment on the reports but released a short video showing scenes of Paris, a plane landing and a close-up of someone putting pen to paper. In the background, upbeat music can heard and the words “new diamond in Paris” and “mercato update” appear.
The video, seen on Twitter, does not show Messi but depicts an image of six Ballons d’Or – an annual award given to the player deemed the best in the world.