The Lionel Messi era began in Paris Saint-Germain, without a goal for the Argentine superstar, but with much fanfare. Messi made his PSG debut on Sunday after leaving the bench in the middle of the second half in a 2-0 match score at Reims in the French league.
Messi replaced his friend and former Barcelona teammate Neymar in the 66th minute as they hugged each other. After years of glory for Messi at Barcelona’s 99,000-seat Camp Nou Stadium, the six-time Golden Ball winner and four-time Champions League winner made his first PSG appearance at the modest 20,000-place Stade Auguste Delaune.
It’s Messi’s star factor, causing fans at home to chant “Messi, Messi” while a smiling Reims goalkeeper, Predrag Rajkovic, took a picture of Messi holding a baby after the match. PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino was impressed with Messi’s welcome, insisting that fans of both teams were happy to see him play.
“The welcome he received was something beautiful to see and hear from our fans, but also from Reims fans,” Pochettino said. “Messi was very happy in this regard. His presence creates more excitement, everyone can feel it and the effect it has on other players. “
Before the match, hundreds of fans gathered to watch Messi as he got off the team bus and greeted him. They wanted to see one of the greatest people of all time, alongside Pele and the late Diego Maradona, whom Messi loved. Messi’s incredible ability, tight control, grace, vision, dancing legs, intelligent passing, speed of thought and execution have delighted fans over the years.
The 34-year-old Messi, who led his country to the Copa America title last month, joined PSG three weeks ago after his new contract with Barcelona fell through. Striker Kylian Mbappe has been named in the starting line-up, while Real Madrid are looking to sign him before the end of the summer transfer window.
Mbappe had scored both goals before Messi entered. He moved on to Angel Di Maria’s center in the 15th minute, then scored 63 off 135 goals since joining PSG in 2017. “No, I was not surprised by his enthusiasm,” said Pochettino, who did not comment on Mbappe’s immediate future. It remains to be seen whether this is his last season for PSG or not.
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