Tuesday, July 16, 2024

SPORTS | 04-04-2023 12:56

Messi 'likely' to leave PSG at end of season, says club source

Reports of a potential return to Barcelona pick up; Fans at Camp Nou chant Messi's name during clásico against Real Madrid, while French fans jeer the star in Paris.

Lionel Messi is "much more likely" to leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season than sign a new deal, a source close to the club said this week, with a potential return to Barcelona on the cards for Argentina’s captain.

"The dynamics have completely changed with PSG less pushing to renew" his contract, the source told the AFP news agency, adding that there was "no deal, no exit yet. But exit is much more likely."

The report matches with local reporting, with journalists claiming that a departure from Paris is on the cards for Messi. 

Previous reports linked the Albiceleste skipper with a potential move to the United States, but Barcelona are said to be exploring if they could finance a move for their former star player.

Messi, who will turn 36 in June, joined PSG in 2021 on a two-year deal which expires at the end of this campaign.

On Sunday, the Argentine's name was jeered by some PSG fans as the teams were announced prior to the 1-0 home defeat against Lyon in Ligue 1.

Supporters of the Qatar-owned club are unhappy at the malaise around the team since they were eliminated from the Champions League in the last 16 by Bayern Munich last month.

PSG have lost eight times in 18 games in 2023, a run which has seen them go out of the French Cup prematurely although they remain six points clear at the top of the French table.

"The fans have changed things completely," the source said of the chances of Messi's deal being renewed and the supporters' reaction at the weekend.

Messi has scored 29 goals and set up 32 more in 67 appearances for PSG in all competitions.

Yet his form has dipped since he led Argentina to glory at the World Cup in Qatar at the end of last year.

Some fans see him as a symbol of all the club has done wrong in focusing on superstar signings while failing to build a genuinely competitive team.

Messi is currently costing PSG around 40 million euros (US$43.6 million) a year in wages at a time when the club have to keep in line with UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules, although there have been suggestions they could offer him a new deal on a reduced salary.

Barcelona have been openly courting Messi, hoping to persuade the Argentine to return to the Camp Nou two years after he left the club where he won four Champions League titles. He left Barcelona when the club could not afford to renew his contract.

"I would love it if he returned," Barça vice-president Rafael Yuste said last week as he admitted there had been "contact" with Messi.

He has also been linked with a possible move to Major League Soccer where Inter Miami are said to be interested in signing him.

Several thousand Barcelona fans at Camp Nou chanted Messi's name in the 10th minute of the Copa del Rey semi-final clásico on Wednesday.

Some fans sung Messi's name outside the stadium before the clash with Real Madrid and many joined in after 10 minutes of the match, representing the Argentine's shirt number at Barça.

"Messi is living history at Barcelona, he's the best player in the history of football," said sporting director Mateu Alemany before Wednesday’s game, in which Barcelona were hammered 4-0 by their rivals.

"He's at PSG fighting for titles and we are fighting for ours. In the future we'll see what happens."

If Messi departs, PSG would likely be doubly determined to keep hold of Kylian Mbappé for at least one more season, a year after persuading the France striker to sign a new deal and turn down overtures from Real Madrid.

As well as the uncertainty over Messi's future, there are doubts about coach Christophe Galtier, who was only appointed last July but has come under intense pressure following recent results.



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