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, however it’s truthful 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 utterly 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 select up his document 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 dwelling, the place the participant was holding a barbecue to have fun 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 for 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 workforce joker Marco Verratti.
The great rapport Messi has at all times loved with PSG boss and countryman Mauricio Pochettino was one more reason why the transfer was engaging. They perceive each other, speak 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 health club gear by Sebastiano Pochettino, the supervisor’s son. Messi seemed puzzled, firstly as a result of it amused him that the little child he had final seen working round a Barcelona flat as a younger little one was now the man suggesting a coaching regime. Secondly, he wasn’t positive what to do with the gear. 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 workforce constructed round him. In assault they give the impression of being first for his diagonal runs from the fitting wing, working along with little passes earlier than that remaining injection of tempo up entrance.
And Neymar has been very happy to transform himself right into a winger once more, taking part in on the left as he did with Messi at Barcelona, as an alternative of being on the centre of every little thing, as he had been up to now at PSG.
In opposition to Manchester Metropolis within the Champions League final week, nevertheless, it was totally different. PSG rapidly realised they would not dominate possession so that they dropped again and seemed to counter assault. They did so to nice impact, however taking part in that method you’ll at all times get much less out of Messi.
They may anticipate to be the workforce controlling possession in most video games. However which will current one other downside: such a method 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 steadiness.
All three forwards additionally have to work more durable defensively. There have been examples within the first few video games of the workforce exhibiting a bent to separate in two, with the three stars up entrance shedding contact with the remainder of the aspect.
They actually got here unstuck on the weekend, shedding 2-0 at Rennes for a primary league defeat of the season – and with out managing a shot on track. Earlier than that that they had received all eight of their Ligue 1 video games as they search to regain the title received by Lille final time period.
A number of weeks earlier, a lot was made from Messi’s substitution in his dwelling debut, a 2-1 win in opposition to Lyon on 20 September. However tales about him being “shocked” and “bewildered” about being changed are broad of the mark.
Whereas it’s actually true that Messi needs 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 incorrect, and his intuition proved to be appropriate as Messi missed the following the following couple of days’ coaching.
There was by no means a query about Messi’s dedication to the workforce. And if proof have been wanted it got here when, after scoring a surprising 74th-minute purpose to seal the 2-0 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 generally taken by Verratti who had by that point been substituted) he did not suppose twice.
Right here was one other instance of the surface world leaping to misread Messi’s temper. Whereas former high gamers opted to take offence on his behalf and bluster a few humiliation for the good participant, Messi himself noticed it as not more than one thing he needed to do for the sake of the workforce.
That defeat at Rennes apart, the one teething issues for Messi up to now 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 claimed 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 often featured interviews with property brokers and property specialists pontificating as to what kind of dwelling they wish to purchase.
In Spain it was at all times all in regards to the soccer and whereas it was at all times identified the place he lived, his household’s privateness was revered.
In France it’s trying like turning into a unique 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 a particularly luxurious and spacious one – is way from ultimate, though it needs to be stated that Pochettino nonetheless does the identical.
The household’s predominant goal is to settle as quickly as potential, though that’s simpler stated than carried out as a result of there should not many properties in Paris that may supply the backyard and expansive outside dwelling they loved at their dwelling in Castelldefels on the outskirts of Barcelona.
In the meanwhile they sometimes take walks round parks close to their resort, at all times accompanied by safety. However the seek for a house is sort of carried out, and making an attempt to place every little thing in place is Messi’s spouse Antonela.
It’s inconceivable to overstate her position, not simply as a associate and mom of their kids, but additionally as finest pal, confidante and, in a scenario like this, a elementary part in making certain every little thing runs as easily as potential.
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 pal Lucas Scaglia, who can also 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 in regards to the transfer.
However in Antonela he has his rock, the pillar of energy that retains the household robust and steady. The thought he would ever have contemplated the transfer with out the entire help 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 practice twice per week with PSG’s younger sides, and Antonella has taken cost of that. She additionally takes the kids to and from college and spends time with a few of her private tasks: sponsorships, partnerships and endorsements for herself, in addition to being lively on social media.
When the household look out of their resort window the probabilities are they are going to have the ability to see a number of the many supporters who nonetheless collect there, though the preliminary wave of euphoria has at the very 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. After 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, that they had bought out.
His purpose in that sport – and the promise of many extra to return – means we needs to be in for fairly a journey.