BARCELONA/PARIS - Barcelona fans gathered outside Lionel Messi's house on Monday and spoke of their sadness at the club's greatest player leaving after 21 years, while Paris Saint-Germain fans eagerly awaited his arrival in the French capital.
One Barça member filed complaints with a French court and with the European Commission to try to block any move by PSG to sign Messi, according to documents seen by Reuters on Monday.
The 34-year-old on Sunday bid farewell to the club he has spent his entire career at and confirmed that he was talking with the Paris club over a possible move. There were no signs of movement around Messi's house in the hills of the wealthy Barcelona district of Castelldefels on Monday, however, where fans waited to catch a glimpse of the player.
"I feel devastated," said Cristian Garcia, wearing a Barça shirt with Messi's name and number 10 on the back. "To see a player that I have always followed, who is an example for me, to see him leave now brings me a lot of pain."
BREAKINGLionel Messi has been seen at his house in Barcelona looking relaxed ahead of his move to PSG
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 9, 2021
Messi said he had agreed a 50% pay cut in order to stay at Barça and sign a new contract but was unable to finalize the deal due to the Spanish league's financial control rules and the club's debts, which total more than $1.2 billion.
LaLiga said last Wednesday it had secured a private equity injection of $3.18 billion from firm CVC, with the funds to be shared among the clubs in return for 10% of the league's revenue. It had been believed this would allow Barcelona to get the Messi deal done, but after Real Madrid rejected the proposal and said they would take legal action against LaLiga, Barça also came out against it.
"I don't think the club has done enough to make him stay, I think it was in the club's hands to make him stay, beyond the money," said Barça and Argentina fan Gonzalo Moreno.
Messi said on Sunday that PSG was "a possibility" but that he had not yet signed any deal.
In the Barcelona member's legal complaints, shared by the fan's lawyer, the member claims that French football authorities have failed to enforce their own financial fair play (FFP) rules in order to help PSG become a force in European football.
Barcelona, like their main LaLiga rivals Real Madrid, are fully owned by their subscription-paying members known as "socios”.
The FFP rules notably forbid top European soccer clubs to pay their playing squads an excessive share of their total revenues, according to the complaints, which also state that the transfer of Messi to PSG would breach the code. PSG and the French football league did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.
French newspaper L'Equipe reported on Sunday that Messi would travel to Paris on Sunday or Monday for a medical and to finalize a deal with the Qatar Sports Investment-owned club. Spanish newspaper Marca reported that PSG had formally sent their offer to Messi on Sunday morning.
While Messi did not confirm he would definitely join the Parisians, he said his plans were to carry on playing as long as possible, adding he still harbors ambitions to win another Champions League trophy.
"We're waiting for a legend, the legend that is Leo Messi," said PSG fan Mehmet Sen, who had been waiting at the gates to Paris' Le Bourget airport since 2 a.m. for a glimpse of the star.
️ MESSI-PSG: PRIMI CORI DEI TIFOSI PER LEO
️ Entusiasmo alle stelle fuori dal Parco dei Principi
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➖#SkyCalciomercato #SkySport #Calciomercato #Messi #Barcellona #Psg pic.twitter.com/zajgCMyjAe— skysport (@SkySport) August 9, 2021
(Reporting by Horaci Garcia and Luis Felipe Castillejo in Barcelona, Mathieu Rosemain in Paris; Additional reporting by Richard Martin; Writing by Hugh Lawson; Editing by Christian Radnedge)