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PSG Signs Lionel Messi After His Shocking Barcelona Exit

PSG's embarrassment of riches will now include arguably the greatest player of all time. 

Lionel Messi has agreed to sign with PSG on a free transfer, following a drastic turn of events that resulted in Barcelona's no longer being able to bring Messi back to the only club he had ever known as a professional. He goes from a club embroiled in economic crisis—the crisis that resulted in his emotional, forced farewell Sunday—to one where economics and finances are no problem at all. Messi is reportedly signed on a two-year deal worth €35 million ($41 million) per season, plus an option for a third year, and represents another world-class attacking weapon for a club that has become enamored with winning the UEFA Champions League.

At PSG, Messi will reunite with Neymar, with the two last enjoying Champions League title success together at Barcelona in 2014–15 before the latter's landscape-altering, world-record, €222 million transfer to PSG in '17. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner will also join an attack that features one of the world's preeminent rising stars in Kylian Mbappé, the 22-year-old French sensation who is entering the last year of his contract with the club and has been hesitant to sign a long-term extension. It's unclear whether Messi's arrival makes it more difficult for Mbappé to do that from a club finances point of view, or whether it makes it a more attractive option for the player, to continue at the club while playing alongside the Argentine great. Neymar is already signed through '25.

Bizarrely, Messi now finds himself teammates with Sergio Ramos, his longtime nemesis from Real Madrid. Like Messi, Ramos's contract expired at the end of June, and he did not wind up returning to the place where he is synonymous with the club's success—and the Barcelona–Real Madrid rivalry. His exit was carried out a bit more methodically and professionally, as opposed to the haphazard nature of Barcelona's revelation that it would not be bringing Messi back. The two are part of PSG's summer free-transfer deluge, joining Italy Euro 2020 goalkeeping hero Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan) and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) in the French capital. Achraf Hakimi (Inter Milan) has also joined the PSG project, but he did so for a $70.9 million transfer fee. How they all fit under UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations—despite the number of free transfers, the players' wages are all expected to be quite high, adding to an already-inflated balance sheet—will surely be an area that draws heavy scrutiny going forward.

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There is also a solid Argentine contingent at PSG, which can help ease the 34-year-old Messi's transition into a new club for the first time since he left his native country for Barcelona's La Masia academy in 2000. Ángel Di María, Leandro Paredes and Mauro Icardi are all presently at the club, with the former two joining Messi in ending Argentina's 28-year trophy drought with a Copa América title this summer (one won at Brazil and Neymar's expense).

It'll all be on another Argentine, manager Mauricio Pochettino, to mold this team of all-world talent into a cohesive title-winning side. Given PSG's expenditure and financial outlay even before Messi's arrival, there was no doubt that this season was already of the Champions League–title-or-bust variety. With Messi incredibly in the fold as well, now part of this collection of superstars, there is no question that any title not won, both domestically and continentally, is to be considered a failure—and a pricey one at that.

PSG has come close in the Champions League in recent years, losing to Bayern Munich in the final in the pandemic-altered edition of the competition in 2020 before bowing out in the semifinals to Manchester City this past season. PSG and Man City were the two clubs realistically thought to be able to sign Messi if he ever did leave Barcelona. In addition to their ownership groups' extreme wealth—which, importantly, is not tied to sport-related revenue and provides financial advantages over nearly every other club in the world—there are the personal components. Messi played for and excelled under Man City manager Pep Guardiola when he was coach of Barcelona, which always made the Etihad seem like a natural landing place if Messi was to ever leave Camp Nou. But City just spent $139 million to sign Jack Grealish and has its remaining transfer focus on landing striker Harry Kane from Tottenham in its insatiable quest to win the Champions League.

So instead, it's off to the Parc des Princes, where Messi will join forces with world-class teammates new and old to begin an unexpected chapter—and one he didn't even truly want—as the ultimate luxury signing and complete a super team the likes of which has not been seen.

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