Remembering Lionel Messi's stint at PSGLionel Messi is one of the greatest players of all time and there is a strong argument to be made that he is the greatest. He has won every single major trophy in the sport, has scored an absurd amount of goals, and has a natural talent to do things that transcend the sport as a whole. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that he is regarded as one of football's greatest-ever players.
However, this doesn't mean that his career didn't have low moments and this was further emphasized in the summer of 2021 when he had to leave FC Barcelona, his lifelong club, and ended up joining French giants Paris Saint-Germain. It was a huge moment for French football but it doesn't mean that it was easy for the Argentinian in the French capital, ending up with some controversies along the way.
The contextIt's no secret at this point that FC Barcelona were going through a lot of financial turmoil during Messi's final years at the club. Different members of different boards had made a lot of controversial and illegal decisions that led to a lot of financial disarray, which is something that led to a lot of problems when it came to structuring the squad.
The biggest example of these problems was Messi's contract in the summer of 2021. Since the Argentinian was obviously on big wages, it was a huge problem for the Catalonian side to give him a new contract and adhere to La Liga's standards to participate in the competition. This naturally led to the decision of not giving Messi a new contract and forcefully cut ties with him.
It is worth pointing out that something similar had already happened the prior summer and Messi was very close to reuniting with his former manager, Pep Guardiola, in Manchester City but Barcelona president Joan Laporta found a way around it. However, Messi didn't want to leave then and Messi didn't want to leave in 2021, either. According to reports, the player had left for vacation thinking that he was signing a new contract, only to come back and realize about the problems the club was going through.
Back in August of 2023, Messi, now playing for Major League Soccer's Inter Miami in the United States, was very open about his thought process when leaving Barcelona in 2021:
"Signing for PSG was never planned. I didn't want to leave Barcelona. It was a quick decision. Yes, obviously I missed Barcelona. The truth is, the first year after I left was very difficult for me, after I left, how it happened, and so on. Obviously I kept following the club, watching the games, and always longed for the memories and being there (in Barcelona)."
Therefore, now without a club, Messi signed for Paris Saint Germain as a free agent, becoming the club's highest-profiled signing of all time and raising the expectations for the team in the upcoming season.
His time at PSGIt is no secret that Paris Saint-Germain's era with the Qatar ownership has seen a lot of ups and downs since 2012, with the club being utterly dominant in Ligue 1 but failing to win the UEFA Champions League. The institution has gone to great lengths to reinforce the side and compete in that tournament, with Messi's signing actually being the peak and the lowest moment in the club's history.
This last part might sound controversial but is by no means an insult to PSG or Messi himself. However, the truth of the matter is that the Argentinian didn't want to sign for the club and his connection with his former Barcelona teammate Neymar Jr., and Kylian Mbappe didn't have the results most people were waiting for.
Whether it was with manager Mauricio Pochettino in the 2021/22 season or Christophe Galtier in the 2022/23 one, Messi never fully clicked with the Parisian side. By his own admission, he never felt comfortable in the city and at the club, even though his earlier months in the second season were quite prolific. However, this could also have been his desire to be in top shape for the World Cup, which he ultimately won in Qatar with Argentina.
Furthermore, his presence had disrupted the dressing room dynamics, with reports that Mbappe wasn't getting along with him and wanted more control in the club. This was further emphasized in the summer of 2023 as both Messi and Neymar left, making the Frenchman the sole face of the institution.
The former Barcelona man wasn't a huge factor in the UEFA Champions League, either. While getting eliminated by Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the round of 16 in his two editions in the competition isn't something to be ashamed of, there is no denying that fans were expecting more from the best player in the world.
Furthermore, his final months at PSG showed a lot of disputes surrounding his contract and the facts were quite vocal about it, booing him and wanting him to leave. It is no surprise that the club announced in June of 2023 that he was leaving, with Messi being quite vocal about his problems with PSG after he left.