Lionel Messi to PSG: How 'unprecedented' deal will shape France, Mauricio Pochettino and Champions League
"It is pretty unanimous in France: everyone is incredibly enthusiastic and impatient regarding Messi's arrival in Ligue 1," says French football expert Louis Gilles about the imminent arrival of the Argentine legend. So what can we expect from the 34-year-old in Paris and can his arrival help end PSG's wait for a Champions League crown?
PSG fans go wild as Messi arrives in Paris after finalising move from Barca
The news comes after the shock announcement on Friday night that Messi would not be re-signing with Barcelona after his current deal had expired. Both the Catalans and their legendary player had anticipated a new contract, but club president Joan Laporta blamed La Liga’s financial restrictions for blocking the deal.
It means Messi joins an impressive list of summer recruits in the French capital, including Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Achraf Hakimi.
So what can we expect from him in Paris? And will this leave Mauricio Pochettino with little margin for error? We asked Eurosport France's Louis Gilles for the low-down on the hottest story of the summer...
WATCH - Messi arrives at airport to take flight to Paris ahead of PSG move
What is the reaction in France?
It is pretty unanimous in France: everyone is incredibly enthusiastic and impatient regarding Messi's arrival in Ligue 1.
Every player or coach that was interviewed during the first matchday last weekend had to answer a Messi-related question, and they all agreed: Peter Bosz (Lyon), Niko Kovac (Monaco), Jorge Sampaoli (Marseille), even Mauricio Pochettino who is not usually the kind of man to reveal much. They're all thrilled about Messi coming to France. There was even a very, err, elegant phrase by Brest coach Michel der Zakarian: "I won't be polite, but Messi in Ligue 1 is giving me a hard-on". You get the idea!
What are you expecting from Messi in Ligue 1?
So far, it's not so much about what Messi will bring on the pitch that is discussed. There is this common belief that having the best player in history in our league will benefit all the clubs. In terms of having a light shone on smaller clubs, making French clubs and players more attractive, and the small matter of TV rights (although these are tied down until 2024).
But for sure, having Messi in Ligue 1 will create lots of attention on all PSG games, and will make people come to stadiums just to see him play. It was the same with Neymar four years ago, but now it is to an even greater level. We saw this with the number of people gathered in airports and iconic places in Paris, all while he was still at home in Spain. It is simply unprecedented.
Watch behind the scenes as Messi is unveiled as PSG player
Does this make PSG clear favourites for the Champions League?
Well… it's tricky. Weren't PSG favourites for the next Champions League even before this? We're talking about a team which has not lost a single valuable player (no offence to Moise Kean and Alessandro Florenzi...), and which recruited Georginio Wijnaldum, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma. So of course they're favourites for the next Champions League, but this competition rarely rewards the team which is the favourite in August…
But for sure, PSG's long 10-year quest for Messi seems to be over. The Champions League needs to follow now.
Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona react with head coach Mauricio Pochettino of Paris Saint-Germain after the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match (leg two) between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona at Parc des Princes on March 10, 2021 in Paris, France
Image credit: Getty Images
Is there now more pressure on Pochettino? Will the owners take action if there isn't immediate success?
It definitely puts more pressure on Pochettino. On one hand, I bet every manager in the world would be dying to have this squad to manage on the field, and therefore it must be thrilling for him. On the other hand, with that many offensive talents, Pochettino will need to find the correct balance between attack and defence, and honestly that could be a hard puzzle to solve.
Adding the talents also ramps up the expectations, and he will be the first one to be pointed at if it does not work. But he recently extended his contract and has only been in Paris for six months (of competition), so there would really need to be a dramatic situation for the owners to "take action" regarding his future. Him being Argentinean, and quite close to most of his players like Neymar should work in his favour. As always, he will be judged during the spring in 2022.