When 150,000 Lionel Messi shirts went on sale on Paris St-Germain’s web site the day his signing was introduced, they have been gone inside seven minutes.
PSG have been right here earlier than, when Neymar signed about 4 years earlier, nevertheless it’s honest to say even they have been shocked by the joy that has greeted the arrival of Argentine famous person Messi.
For the person himself, although, this can be a fully new expertise. He joined Barcelona as a boy, aged 13. Now 34, he and his younger household are adjusting to a brand new life in a metropolis he had final visited in December 2019, when he referred to as in to choose up his file sixth Ballon d’Or.
From the second he landed in France in August, everybody at PSG has made an enormous effort to make him really feel welcome. A gaggle assembly was organised at Ander Herrera’s residence, the place the participant was holding a barbecue to rejoice his birthday, and Messi has felt backed within the dressing room from the day he arrived.
Even former Actual Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, with whom Messi locked horns on quite a few events in Spain, was fast to welcome him, and earlier than signing he had already mentioned the potential of signing with Angel di Maria, Neymar and Leandro Paredes.
Neymar even went as far as to supply him his quantity 10 shirt, which Messi declined, opting as an alternative for the quantity 30 that he wore as a young person when he made his senior debut for Barca.
He was additionally pleasantly shocked by the heat of the reception given to him by Kylian Mbappe – who by the way speaks good Spanish – in addition to that of happy-go-lucky staff joker Marco Verratti.
The nice rapport Messi has at all times loved with PSG boss and countryman Mauricio Pochettino was another excuse why the transfer was engaging. They perceive each other, discuss the identical language each actually and figuratively, and spoke on the telephone simply after it was introduced that Messi was leaving Barcelona. Theirs is a relationship that goes again a way.
At his first day of PSG coaching, Messi was proven some fitness center tools by Sebastiano Pochettino, the supervisor’s son. Messi regarded puzzled, firstly as a result of it amused him that the little child he had final seen operating round a Barcelona flat as a younger youngster was now the man suggesting a coaching regime. Secondly, he wasn’t positive what to do with the tools. Sure, he had seen them at Barcelona, however he’d by no means been requested to make use of them.
That’s one other instance of change for Messi, however out on the pitch issues have been extra acquainted. From his first match, a 2-0 win at Reims on 29 August, PSG have performed like a staff constructed round him. In assault they appear first for his diagonal runs from the correct wing, working along with little passes earlier than that ultimate injection of tempo up entrance.
And Neymar has been more than pleased to transform himself right into a winger once more, enjoying on the left as he did with Messi at Barcelona, as an alternative of being on the centre of the whole lot, as he had been thus far at PSG.
Towards Manchester City in the Champions League last week, nevertheless, it was totally different. PSG rapidly realised they would not dominate possession so that they dropped again and regarded to counter assault. They did so to nice impact, however enjoying that method you’ll at all times get much less out of Messi.
They’ll anticipate to be the staff controlling possession in most video games. However that will current one other downside: such a mode advantages Messi and Neymar greater than Mbappe, as a result of the Frenchman wants area to run. It is a dynamic that could be troublesome for Pochettino to stability.
All three forwards additionally have to work tougher defensively. There have been examples within the first few video games of the staff displaying an inclination to separate in two, with the three stars up entrance dropping contact with the remainder of the aspect.
They actually got here unstuck on the weekend, losing 2-0 at Rennes for a primary league defeat of the season – and with out managing a shot heading in the right direction. Earlier than that they’d received all eight of their Ligue 1 video games as they search to regain the title received by Lille final time period.
A couple of weeks earlier, a lot was manufactured from Messi’s substitution in his home debut, a 2-1 win against Lyon on 20 September. However tales about him being “shocked” and “bewildered” about being changed are extensive of the mark.
Whereas it’s actually true that Messi desires to play each minute of each sport, Pochettino made the choice to take him off as he knew he had felt some discomfort in his knee. The supervisor suspected one thing was fallacious, and his intuition proved to be right as Messi missed the subsequent the subsequent couple of days’ coaching.
There was by no means a query about Messi’s dedication to the staff. And if proof have been wanted it got here when, after scoring a shocking 74th-minute objective to seal the 2-Zero victory over Manchester Metropolis, he took on the position of “draught excluder” in a defensive wall. When captain Marquinhos requested him to do it (the place is often taken by Verratti who had by that point been substituted) he did not suppose twice.
Right here was one other instance of the skin world leaping to misread Messi’s temper. Whereas former top players opted to take offence on his behalf and bluster a few humiliation for the nice participant, Messi himself noticed it as not more than one thing he needed to do for the sake of the staff.
That defeat at Rennes apart, the one teething issues for Messi thus far have come off the pitch.
The Argentine was lower than impressed that particulars of his contract and wages have been revealed on the entrance cowl of French newspaper L’Equipe. In Spain it took years for his wage to be leaked, in France it took lower than two months – though the report is alleged to have been inaccurate.
Added to that’s an irritating cleaning soap opera growing across the Messi household’s seek for a property in Paris. The native press have continuously featured interviews with property brokers and property consultants pontificating as to what sort of residence they want to purchase.
In Spain it was at all times all concerning the soccer and whereas it was at all times recognized the place he lived, his household’s privateness was revered.
In France it’s trying like turning into a distinct story and he’s not proud of the intrusion, not least as a result of it represents a possible safety menace.
Residing together with his household in a resort – albeit an especially luxurious and spacious one – is way from supreme, though it needs to be stated that Pochettino nonetheless does the identical.
The household’s most important goal is to settle as quickly as doable, though that’s simpler stated than completed as a result of there aren’t many properties in Paris that may supply the backyard and expansive out of doors residing they loved at their residence in Castelldefels on the outskirts of Barcelona.
For the time being they often take walks round parks close to their resort, at all times accompanied by safety. However the seek for a house is nearly completed, and attempting to place the whole lot in place is Messi’s spouse Antonela.
It’s not possible to overstate her position, not simply as a associate and mom of their kids, but in addition as finest good friend, confidante and, in a scenario like this, a basic element in making certain the whole lot runs as easily as doable.
Messi first met Antonela Roccuzzo, a fellow native of Rosario, when he was simply 5 years previous. She is the cousin of his childhood finest good friend Lucas Scaglia, who can be a footballer.
The couple, collectively since 2008, are inseparable. Messi has been fast to say the toughest factor about making the choice to return to Paris was telling first his spouse then his kids concerning the transfer.
However in Antonela he has his rock, the pillar of energy that retains the household robust and steady. The concept he would ever have contemplated the transfer with out the full assist of his soulmate and his kids that he adores is unthinkable.
Maybe acutely aware of the notion that the “fruit by no means falls removed from the tree”, Messi’s two oldest kids prepare twice every week with PSG’s younger sides, and Antonella has taken cost of that. She additionally takes the youngsters to and from college and spends time with a few of her private tasks: sponsorships, partnerships and endorsements for herself, in addition to being energetic on social media.
When the household look out of their resort window the possibilities are they may be capable to see among the many supporters who nonetheless collect there, though the preliminary wave of euphoria has at the least calmed to the extent that the fences put in place to maintain the hordes at bay have now been eliminated.
However “Messimania” exhibits no signal of abating in Paris extra broadly. Once I walked into the membership store with the intention of shopping for both a house or away PSG Messi shirt on the day of the sport in opposition to Manchester Metropolis, they’d offered out.
His objective in that sport – and the promise of many extra to return – means we ought to be in for fairly a journey.