Messi gets wild welcome from PSG fans at official unveiling

Lionel Messi was given a hero’s welcome at Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday as he was officially unveiled following his whirlwind free transfer to the French club.

Out of contract for the first time in 20 years, Messi brought his long and storied association with Barcelona to an emotional close last week after financial constraints prevented a new deal being completed.

ESPN+ viewers’ guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, more (U.S.)
Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access

Mere days after his tearful farewell to Barca, the 34-year-old gave his first news conference as a PSG player at the Parc des Princes. Club president Nasser al-Khelaifi and sporting director Leonardo looked delighted as they posed for pictures with what surely will become soccer’s most iconic No. 30 jersey ever.

With former Barca strike partner Neymar already occupying the No. 10 shirt at PSG, Messi will take over the No. 30 jersey last worn by reserve goalkeeper Alexandre Letellier during the 2020-21 season. Before him, the shirt has belonged to the likes of Salvatore Sirigu, Kevin Trapp and Timothy Weah.

Then, it was down to business, as Messi told the media that he believes signing for PSG represents his best chance of winning the Champions League for the fifth time.

Even as the six-time Ballon d’Or winner was inside the stadium, PSG supporters were making themselves heard outside.

The crowd was so large that some fans had to look for higher ground to get a better view …

… while others made do with giant images of their new idol as they waited to catch a glimpse of the real thing.

There was just as much excitement inside the news conference, so much so that even some journalists in attendance were chanting Messi’s name.

Messi then went out on to the pitch, posing for an ensemble photo with a group of local schoolchildren.

All the while, the atmosphere was building outside, and when the PSG ultras were finally presented with their new star signing, they gave him an extraordinary welcome…

One fan got a memento of the day to treasure as Messi threw out a PSG jersey in the writhing sea of flags and flares.

Just in case there was anyone out there who still couldn’t believe their eyes, there were two signs that proved beyond doubt that Lionel Messi is indeed a Paris Saint-Germain player:

1. His three children — Thiago, Matteo and Ciro — were all sporting their own PSG jerseys.

2. Even his waxwork at Madame Tussauds in Berlin has donned the kit of his new club.

As for when the Parisian faithful will get to see Messi playing in their club’s colours remains to be seen. Messi has been unable to train with other players since the Copa America earlier this summer, due to his status as a free agent.

PSG host Strasbourg in a Ligue 1 fixture on Saturday, but PSG fans and the football world at large may have to wait a little longer before they get to see Messi line up alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in a fearsome front three.

Until then, well: we’ll always have these scenes on the streets of Paris.