With Saturday’s game against Clermont possibly to be his last in a Paris Saint-Germain shirt, Ligue1.com picks out the defining moments of Lionel Messi’s two years in France.
The football world was stunned when Messi signed for PSG in August 2021 after departing Barcelona, the club where he had spent his entire career. The Argentinian arrived in the French capital as a hero, with supporters greeting him at the airport and gathering to see him wave from the balcony of his plush hotel where he first took up residence, near the Champs-Élysées.
When Messi was unveiled at the Parc des Princes, he said it was his “dream” to win the UEFA Champions League again, having triumphed four times in Europe’s elite club competition with Barça. If that was the main aim for him in coming to Paris, it has not worked out. PSG have gone out in the last 16 in both seasons with Messi in the team.
Yet he has still added more medals to his glittering CV, helping PSG to successive Ligue 1 Uber Eats titles and winning this season’s Trophée des Champions for good measure. From a purely personal viewpoint, playing in an on-form Paris side under Christophe Galtier in the first three months of this campaign set him up perfectly for a glorious World Cup campaign with Argentina in Qatar. Meanwhile PSG’s standing as a global sports brand has undoubtedly benefited from the presence of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner in their ranks.
In terms of the pure numbers, Messi has 32 goals in 74 games for Paris before Saturday’s final match of this season. He is set to end this campaign as the leading assist provider in Ligue 1, with his tally of 16 at least five more than any other player. Now, with his contract soon running out, it’s time to look at some key landmarks of Messi’s two years with PSG.
The first goal: PSG 2-0 Manchester City
UEFA Champions League group stage - September 28, 2021
A month after making his PSG debut in a Ligue 1 win at Stade de Reims, he got his first goal for his new club. The home side were 1-0 up against Pep Guardiola’s team with 16 minutes left when Messi charged towards the City box, cutting in from the right. He played a pass into the path of Kylian Mbappé and did not have to break his stride as he advanced onto the return ball and stroked a glorious shot into the top-right corner from the edge of his area. It was a classic Messi goal, and it gave his new team a statement European win. It seemed to be lift-off for the ex-Barcelona man.
Breaking his duck in Ligue 1: PSG 3-1 FC Nantes
Ligue 1 – November 20, 2021
Messi followed that goal against City with a brace in a win over RB Leipzig a few weeks later, but it took him some time to settle in domestic competition. The visit of Nantes to Paris on November 20 was just his sixth Ligue 1 appearance, and he finally broke his duck in the league. It was an important goal, coming three minutes from time to secure a 3-1 win with PSG down to 10 men. It was also another classic Messi strike. On a gloomy evening, he collected a pass from Mbappé in the inside-right position midway inside the opposition half and carried the ball to the edge of the box before dispatching a left-foot shot into the bottom corner.
Deadly from a dead ball: PSG 4-3 LOSC Lille
Ligue 1 – February 19, 2023
The second half of this season has not always been easy for Messi or his club on the back of the World Cup but he has still played a crucial role in PSG’s run to the title. Never more so than in this game against Lille at the Parc des Princes. The home side had blown a two-goal lead to find themselves 3-2 behind, and also saw Neymar Jr come off on a stretcher. But Mbappé equalised with three minutes left. Then, with the shadows lengthening on a sunny early spring day, Messi was pulled back by Benjamin André near the Lille area. In the fifth minute of injury time he stepped up to send the resulting free-kick into the net off the post, and PSG had a huge three points.
Pass master: Olympique de Marseille 0-3 PSG
Ligue 1 – February 26, 2023
It is easy to focus on the goals Messi scores. After all, this is the man who scored the 700th club goal of his career in this PSG victory over Marseille in February’s Classique. Yet just as important in this game was the role he played as provider. He sent Mbappé sprinting away to score the opener and silence the Vélodrome. Then, after tapping in Mbappé’s low cross to make it 2-0 before the break, Messi produced a delightful lofted pass over the home defence in the second half for Mbappé to complete another precious victory in the title race. Messi has set up more goals than anyone else in Ligue 1 this season, and his understanding with Mbappé has been particularly fruitful.
A title-winning goal: RC Strasbourg Alsace 1-1 PSG
Ligue 1 – May 27, 2023
Messi scored just six goals in his first Ligue 1 campaign, a paltry tally by his standards. Yet one of those goals was a rasping drive in a 1-1 draw at home to RC Lens in April 2022 that allowed PSG to clinch the title. It was the same story this season, as Messi scored the goal in last week’s 1-1 draw in Strasbourg that secured a record 11th league title for his club. It was another beauty too, from an assist by Mbappé. It left Messi on 16 league goals for the campaign, together with his 16 assists. It was also his 496th goal in one of the major European leagues, putting him one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar has scored 495 across the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A in his career.