On Saturday, France Football published Lionel Messi’s first wide-ranging interview since joining Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona.
The 34-year-old Argentine has experienced a quiet start to league play in France as he’s yet to score or assist in three appearances, but PSG already has a six-point lead at the top of the table after nine games. It’s the Champions League that Messi was brought on board to secure, and his strike against Manchester City back on Sep. 28 — his first for PSG — was par excellence.
LEO MESSI SCORES HIS FIRST GOAL FOR PSG pic.twitter.com/loIXhBzESC— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 28, 2021
Messi is now back with Argentina for a string of World Cup qualifiers, but he’s finally found time to reflect on his first full month in Paris. It’s obvious that the six-time Ballon d’Or winner was as stunned by the move as everyone else.
“I came back to Barcelona to prepare for the season, after taking advantage of the extra days of vacation that the coach had given me,” Messi said. “I didn’t expect it at all. I had in mind to sign the contract and start training right away. I thought that everything was settled and all that was missing was my signature. But when I got there, I was told that it was no longer possible, that I could not stay and that I had to find another club because Barça could not afford to extend my contract. That changed my plans.
“It was extremely hard to take. To think that we would have to leave our home, the family were going to have their routines turned upside down, the kids were going to have to change schools and come with us to a completely new place. It was the first time that this had happened in my career. I had decided that I was going to end my career with Barcelona. It was difficult, but we passed the test together. A lot of things went through my mind, but I had no choice but to leave.”
For weeks it had seemed like a foregone conclusion that Messi was extending his stay at the Camp Nou, but when it suddenly became apparent that the club’s crippling debt made that impossible, the news of his arrival at the Parc des Princes wasn’t far behind.
“PSG offered me the chance to join,” Messi said. “I had other offers, but I have to admit that was a pretty quick agreement with PSG. It wasn’t easy because everything had to be done quickly, practically overnight. I was seduced by the project, the club’s ambitions, the players they had, the group. All of those things made it easier to reach an agreement. That was a big part of my decision because I knew I was coming to a new country and I had to start from scratch.
“Knowing that I had friends in the dressing room made me think that things would be easier to adapt to. And I was not wrong, because it was very easy to settle, especially because there are many players who speak Spanish, like me, and some friends like Ney, Lea (Paredes), Fideo (Di María), who helped me when I arrived. At the Copa América they kept asking me if I was going to join them, but always in jest, because they knew I wanted to stay at Barcelona. So, for them, it was a surprise when I said I was going to PSG.
“With a player like him (Neymar), it’s easy to get along. Also, Kylian speaks perfect Spanish, so we have good exchanges off the pitch as well. It makes things easier. Now, I’ve only been here a short time, so it’s still a bit early to draw conclusions, but I’m sure it will work well.”
PSG was handed a stern opening test in the Champions League group stage alongside English champion Manchester City, Bundesliga runner-up RB Leipzig and Belgian champion Club Brugge, but the 2-0 victory over City on Matchday 2 showcased a team that’s development is ahead of schedule.
“It’s everyone’s dream here,” Messi said about winning the UCL. “The club have been working towards that goal for a few years and have been getting closer. From a personal point of view, it’s the same for me. I would love to win the Champions League again, as I said at Barcelona. It’s a great, difficult competition to win. But this group of players has what it takes.
“It’s true that it’s PSG’s main focus, but there are other strong teams like Chelsea, the Manchester teams, Real Madrid, Inter, Bayern Munich. They’re all great teams. We have great individuals but we are still getting to know each other and building a team. To win important trophies you have to play as a team. That’s why I think we’re a step behind these other clubs, because they have more experience as a collective than we do.”
France Football is also the magazine that presents the Ballon d’Or, and the shortlist for the 2021 award was revealed on Friday. Despite having another massive year, Messi doesn’t see himself as favorite.
“I don’t think I’m the favorite and I’ve never liked talking about it until the result is in,” Messi said. “It would be great to win another one, it’s already amazing to be the only player to have won six. A seventh would be incredible. This past summer I won a trophy that was missing in the Copa América and that was the pinnacle for me. If I go on to win another Ballon d’Or, I’ll be very happy and very grateful, but I’m not thinking about it.
“In my team there are at least two players for whom I’ll vote in Kylian and Ney. Then Lewandowski, who has had a great year. But there’s also Benzema. We know that trophies are important now. The Champions League, the European Championship and the Copa América always weigh heavily in the vote.”
Messi and Argentina play Uruguay on Sunday (Oct. 10) and Peru on Thursday (Oct. 14). PSG has a Ligue 1 match against Angers on Friday (Oct. 15) before hosting Leipzig in the UCL next Tuesday (Oct. 19).