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Jeers in Paris, cheers in Barcelona

Copa del Rey: World waits for Lionel Messi's next move  

Back in Paris, Messi has been at receiving end of ire of PSG fans after a series of lacklustre performances by team

Angshuman Roy Calcutta Published 07.04.23, 05:18 AM
Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi. File photo

Ten minutes into the Copa del Rey Clasico semi-final on Wednesday, Camp Nou reverberated with a familiar name. Lionel Messi.

The fans, desperate to see him back on the pitch he ruled for years, chanted his name as news of Messi's growing anger at Paris Saint-Germain gathered steam.


Barcelona were given a hiding by Real Madrid — the 4-0 defeat will rankle fans for some time — and the clamour to bring Messi back to Camp Nou broke the permissible decibel level.

Back in Paris, Messi has been at the receiving end of the ire of PSG fans after a series of lacklustre performances by the team. After what happened last Sunday, when he was jeered and booed following the home loss to Lyon, the buzz is that the 2022 World Cup winner is determined to leave Paris for good. His two-year contract ends this summer and if the mood is any indication, there is hardly any chance of an extended stay.

Messi being jeered by PSG fans is nothing new in Paris. Last year too, even after PSG won the Ligue 1, the Argentine superstar and others were booed by the fans for their now-consistent no-show in the Champions League. Even this season, after the loss to Bayern Munich in the round-of-16, Messi was singled out. Doesn't matter if the world believes it or not, the fans believe that the 35-year-old is responsible for PSG's alarming slump.

"It's embarrassing," former France striker Thierry Henry had told Amazon Prime after the 1-0 loss to Lyon. "You can’t whistle one of the best players on the team, who has 13 goals and 13 assists this season. Personally, I would like to see him finish his career at Barcelona, in Europe. After that, I don’t know what he will do. Because of the way he left Barcelona after everything he did... I didn’t really like it. For the love of football, he should go back to Barcelona," Messi's former Barca teammate added.

PSG coach Christophe Galtier, himself under fire, also defended Messi, saying it was others who should raise their game. "You can't expect Leo to do everything," Galtier said last week. "The boos are very harsh. He's a player who gives a lot, who gave a lot in the first half of the season. But it's also down to the others to surpass themselves."

Since the World Cup break, PSG have lost eight games overall in 2023.

Messi's move to Barcelona will not be easy if he decides to return to the city. His family wants him to switch but the deal is easier said than done. Someone who won everything under the sun with Barcelona left the club in the summer of 2021 with teary eyes. He visits the city whenever he gets a chance to, but for him to make a permanent move, Barcelona will first have to manage their books.

His salary — media reports suggest Messi is ready to take a pay cut — is something the club will have to think about. The club may also have to let go of some good players to facilitate the deal. But it's still early days. As Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said the other day: "It depends on many factors. We must see what the financial fair play rules allow us to do. But I think the most important factor will be Leo's desire to come back here."

There could also be a Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi reunion in Saudi Arabia. Al Hilal, Riyadh rivals of Ronaldo's Al Nassr, have come up with a mindblowing offer, proposing a deal worth in excess of €400 million per year.

It's unlikely that the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner will be enticed by the offer. He wants to stay in Europe and have a go at rival defenders much younger than him. Probably, that's why Inter Miami of Major League Soccer is also low on his priority.

David Beckham's club could be Messi's destination when he decides that he needs a league where physical demands are much lesser. But that time hasn't come, yet.

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