Messi targets UCL glory with PSG after ‘tough’ Barca exit

Lionel Messi spoke at his first news conference as a Paris Saint-Germain player on Wednesday and said after a “very hard” end to his Barcelona career, his target is to win the Champions League again.

PSG announced Messi’s arrival on Tuesday with the former Barcelona player signing a two-year contract, with the option of a further year. Sources told ESPN’s Julien Laurens that Messi is expected to earn between €30-35 million ($35-41m) net a year.

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Messi was presented at the news conference at PSG’s Parc des Princes and his name was chanted amid a round of applause as he took his seat alongside club president Nasser al-Khelaifi.

He spoke about his desire to win the Champions League for a fifth time, the end to his career at Camp Nou, and his excitement at playing alongside teammates Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

“My exit from Barca was very hard, after so many years, but as soon as I arrived here I was so happy, so motivated, so excited. It has happened so fast, but I am enjoying it so much,” Messi said.

“My goal and my dream is to win the Champions League once more. I think that we have the team to do it here.

“The squad and coaches here are capable of winning everything, which is my objective. The team here is incredible. There have been some amazing signings. This will be an unbelievable experience for me. I do not know when I will first be able to play and I might need some preseason conditioning first. I really want to begin the training sessions, I really want it to be quick.”

On his teammates Neymar and Mbappe — the top two most expensive players in history at €222m and €180m respectively — Messi said: “I am very happy. It’s crazy. I’m going to play with the best players in the world, and that’s always good.”

Wednesday’s news conference was moved from its original slot of Tuesday as the club needed more time to cope with logistics, given the worldwide media interest in the transfer of the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.

Messi spoke at his Barcelona farewell news conference on Sunday and said PSG were an option and, speaking Wednesday, thanked the new club for how quickly negotiations were concluded. The Argentina international, who won the Copa America with his country this summer, also spoke about the possibility of facing his former club in the Champions League this season.

“I am very grateful that such complicated negotiations were made so easy,” he said. “I left Barcelona without knowing where I was going. This week has been hard, quick and emotional. But I am excited about this new stage for my career and my family.

“[PSG] had positioned themselves from the first day, even though it wasn’t easy in these conditions. I want to thank the club for the work it’s done and the welcome I’ve had.

“The Barca fans knew I’d join a good club, fighting for the Champions League, because they know me, I like to win, I’m a winner and I want to carry on doing that.

“I don’t doubt that PSG’s objectives are to win and grow. It would be nice on the one hand to face them in the Champions League, especially with fans, but on the other strange to go back to my home in another team’s shirt — but that’s football.”

Messi moved to Paris after Barcelona failed to register his five-year contract at Camp Nou due to financial complications surrounding LaLiga’s rules on salaries. Messi’s proposed deal meant Barcelona’s wage bill stood at 110% of their revenue, way above the 70% limit. Their spending cap with LaLiga has dropped from over €600 million in 2019-20 to an expected €200m for the coming season, which made it impossible to register Messi’s new deal, even with a pay cut. His previous terms included a base salary of around €70m gross without bonuses.

“I am speaking from the bottom of my heart. Thank you to everybody for making this happen. Bringing the best player in the world here. The hard work starts now,” Al-Khelaifi said.

“This is an amazing and historic day for the club and football world. Leo makes football magic, beautiful … he’s a winner. It’s no secret there was a great desire [between PSG and Messi] to make this happen.

“We have someone here next to me, he won lots of trophies and I am sure he will bring lots of trophies to the club, with his squad, with his team-mates, the best players in the world, and amazing coach, for me he is the best in the world.”

Al-Khelaifi was also asked about Mbappe’s future and the Financial Fair Play ramifications of Messi’s move to PSG. Mbappe’s contract at PSG is due to expire in 2022.

“I was waiting for that question,” Al-Khelaifi said. “We have always respected Financial Fair Play. We checked with our financial people and knew that we could sign him. What the media need to focus on is not just the negative but also the positives that he will bring.

“I think we have the most competitive team. Now there is no choice for Kylian but to stay here in Paris.”

Al-Khelaifi said people would be “shocked” by the financial revenues Messi would bring the club, though he quipped: “I hope Leo will not ask for more salary.”

Messi scored a record 672 goals in 778 appearances for Barca, winning 10 LaLiga titles, the Copa del Rey seven times, the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup three times apiece and the Champions League on four occasions.

In July, he also won his first major international honour when he helped Argentina win the Copa America.