That was fast. The announcement that Lionel Messi will not be returning to FC Barcelona was barely a day old before reports around Europe were essentially announcing his arrival at big-spending Paris Saint-Germain.

Forget reporters. Not even 24 hours had expired before PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino made it public that they were negotiating with the 34-year-old Argentine star.

“Of course [signing Messi] is a possibility,” Pochettino said. “The club is working on it and if there is any information we will communicate it as soon as possible.”

A member of Qatar’s royal family, Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, basically announced the deal late Friday:

Mohamed Bohafsi has been all over the news from the start, and he reports: “Messi has chosen PSG! The latest discussions are a 2-year contract, plus an option. PSG is trying to close the deal this weekend. Messi’s father is to meet PSG in the coming hours. The Parisian locker room is happy.”

It would seem there’s no stopping this train. The reporting has been supported by others in the media, including ESPN’s Julien Laurens and CBS’s Fabrizio Romano and Sky Sport’s Matteo Moretto. Moretto reports that “Leo Messi is happening, the parties want to get it done in two days,” while Romano claims that the two sides were talking on Aug. 5 — the same day that Messi and Barcelona made the decision to part ways.

Forget the contract signing. Let’s move right to the presentation. There’s a date floating around for that, too.

And if there’s anyone thinking that Messi’s arrival could mean that star forward Kylian Mbappe will soon be on his way out, it’s actually the reverse, according to ESPN’s Laurens, who writes that “Messi joining PSG would increase the likelihood of Mbappe, who is out of contract next summer, signing a new long-term deal with the club.”

PSG are hoping this move will finally help them achieve the dream of winning the UEFA Champions League, which they have come tantalizingly close to winning in recent years. They reached the final in 2020 (loss to Bayern Munich) and the semifinal stage in 2021. They have spared no expense this summer to assemble a super team: Gigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum have all joined a team that was already stacked.

Who else could sign Messi?

The only other European sides that could come close to competing from a salary perspective are the biggest English spenders, Manchester City and Chelsea. But Manchester City has already ruled itself out of the Messi sweepstakes through its manager and Messi’s former coach. Pep Guardiola: “It’s not in our thoughts, absolutely not,” he said.

According to David Sanchidrian of Spain sports daily AS, Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich has requested a meeting with the Argentine superstar’s camp to get a sense of what he’s looking for.

With two UEFA Champions League contenders like Chelsea and PSG in the mix, Major League Soccer and Inter Miami will miss out on this round, although the league and the LA Galaxy came up with a creative deal for David Beckham to move to the USA when he was 32 and after a spell at Real Madrid. Beckham’s the owner of Inter Miami, the expansion team he started with the expansion team option included in that original contract.

Should Messi decide to head to the USA after two years at PSG in the summer of 2023, he would do so while turning 36. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still starring for AC Milan at 39 and did so for the Galaxy prior to that. Cristiano Ronaldo is in the last season of his deal with Juventus in Italy, during which he’ll be turning 37. Ronaldo was the top scorer in the Italian Serie A last season and Euros 2021.





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