Messi signing a 'surprise for everybody', accepts PSG director Leonardo

By Sports Desk October 09, 2021

Lionel Messi did not want to leave Barcelona and his eventual signing for Paris Saint-Germain even caught them by surprise, according to the Parisians' sporting director Leonardo.

Messi ended a 21-year association with Barca back in August when it was announced he would not be re-signing for the club.

His contract had officially expired at the end of June but Barca and Messi were expecting to be able to announce a new deal on a reduced salary.

But even with the reduced terms, Barca were still unable to get their wage expenditure under their LaLiga-imposed salary cap, which prevented them registering new signings.

As such, Messi was officially a free agent and PSG quickly swooped to bring him in, with the Ligue 1 champions and Manchester City both being linked with him extensively in the past.

The situation surrounding Messi's inability to re-sign for Barca and his move to PSG shocked the world of football, and that included those at PSG.

"Messi was convinced to stay at Barcelona," Leonardo told reporters at the Festival dello Sport on Saturday.

"We had some contacts. Some rumours were saying he may not stay at Barcelona because his contract was expiring.

"We checked the situation, we talked but we did not have the feeling he wanted to leave Barcelona. However we started networking. This helped us to be in a good position.

"Then Barcelona announced the end of their relationship, so that's the moment we started and it's been great. It's been a surprise for everybody.

"Then he arrived. The way he arrived… he was at Barcelona for 21 years. It was the first transfer he'd done.

"It was a new thing for him to be in a new dressing room. He's got an impacting silence, he doesn't talk much but he is someone to admire."

Another high-profile player signed by PSG on a free transfer in pre-season was Gianluigi Donnarumma, who departed Milan after running his contract down.

Many in Italy have been intensely critical of Donnarumma for opting to leave for the greater riches on offer in Paris, but Leonardo insisted PSG did not get in touch with him until June, two months after his exit was confirmed.

"I know it's a difficult situation," Leonardo said. "We never contacted Donnarumma before June. I don't want to be wrong, I think Milan announced in April that they were not extending the contract [of Donnarumma].

"They signed a new goalkeeper in Mike Maignan, so Donnarumma was free for the market. We had never contacted Donnarumma before, then some things happened.

"I had been in Milan but his future was not decided yet. He was free in June. We talked and we took this decision.

"We had never done previous work to have him for free. He was going to another team if it wasn't PSG. He wouldn't have stayed at Milan."

Related items

  • Messi pleases PSG boss Pochettino despite drawing blank after Ballon d'Or celebration Messi pleases PSG boss Pochettino despite drawing blank after Ballon d'Or celebration

    Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino defended Lionel Messi after the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner fired a blank in Wednesday's 0-0 Ligue 1 draw at home to Nice.

    Messi was honoured pre-game in front of the Parc des Princes crowd following his record-extending Ballon d'Or title, but the superstar was unable to fire PSG to glory in the French capital midweek.

    Entering the contest having found the net three times in as many home games for runaway Ligue 1 leaders PSG, Messi attempted six shots, though only one was on target against Nice.

    It was Messi's highest tally without scoring in the league since April 2021 – seven with Barcelona against Real Madrid in LaLiga prior to his blockbuster Paris switch.

    "It must be my fault because with my football eye I always see Leo well, for something he has won seven Ballons d'Or, there is nothing more to say," Pochettino told reporters.

    "It is a pleasure and an honour to have him on our team."

    PSG registered 22 shots on goal – their highest tally without scoring in Ligue 1 since March 2016, with Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe going closest to finding the back of the net, but were unable to break down their stubborn opponents.

    French powerhouse PSG conceded their first 0-0 home draw in Ligue 1 since February 2017 (against Toulouse). This was their first home draw in the top flight since November 2020 (2-2 against Bordeaux), ending a run of 20 games at home without sharing points (W16 L4).

    PSG, however, remain 12 points clear atop the table, though second-placed Marseille have played one game less.

    "When goals are not scored, what is lacking is to hit the mark, you shoot many times and the ball does not go in and other times it does," added Pochettino, who has been heavily linked with Premier League side Manchester United.

    "We have not been able to take advantage of the opportunities we had, but these things happen once or twice a season when you play well and the goalkeeper or the stick or it goes an inch out. You have to accept this kind of thing."

  • PSG deserved to win, insists Pochettino after Nice stalemate PSG deserved to win, insists Pochettino after Nice stalemate

    Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino insisted the Ligue 1 leaders deserved to win as he was left to rue missed opportunities after his side were held to a goalless draw by Nice.

    Runaway Ligue 1 pacesetters PSG were denied victory at Parc des Princes for the first time this season in all competitions following Wednesday's stalemate.

    PSG registered 22 shots on goal – their highest tally without scoring in Ligue 1 since March 2016, with Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe going closest to finding the back of the net, but were unable to break down their stubborn opponents.

    Indeed, it was the first time in 18 Ligue 1 meetings that Nice had prevented PSG from finding the net.

    But Pochettino – who has been heavily linked with Manchester United – felt PSG's performance was worthy of more than a share of the spoils as Lionel Messi fired a blank after claiming a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or.

    "We got chances, but we didn't score. We deserved to win," Pochettino said. "It happens sometimes; the ball doesn't go in, sometimes there's a good goalkeeper. 

    "These are things that you have to accept throughout the season. I am satisfied with the defensive performance of the team. 

    "We are improving little by little. We are first in Ligue 1 and qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. 

    "We must continue to improve to be ready for the decisive moments."

    Messi attempted six shots (one on target) against Nice, his highest tally without scoring in the league since April 2021 (seven with Barcelona against Real Madrid).

    PSG conceded their first 0-0 home draw in Ligue 1 since February 2017 (against Toulouse). This is their first home draw in the top flight since November 2020 (2-2 against Bordeaux), ending a run of 20 games at home without sharing points (W16 L4).

  • Paris Saint-Germain 0-0 Nice: Runaway Ligue 1 leaders thwarted at Parc des Princes Paris Saint-Germain 0-0 Nice: Runaway Ligue 1 leaders thwarted at Parc des Princes

    Paris Saint-Germain saw their 10-match winning home run in Ligue 1 halted as they were held to a goalless draw by Nice at Parc des Princes.

    The runaway leaders in the French top flight had found the net three times in each of their past three league games, but drew a blank on Wednesday.

    Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe went closest to scoring for Mauricio Pochettino's side, who proved wasteful in front of goal.

    Despite 20 shots on goal, the hosts were unable to break down Nice, who held out for their first clean sheet in this fixture in 18 attempts.

    Nice were seeking only a second win over PSG in 17 matches and Kasper Dolberg tested Gianluigi Donnarumma from long distance early on, while Presnel Kimpembe produced a wonderful last-ditch intervention to deny Andy Delort.

    It then took brilliant reflexes by Donnarumma to keep out Delort's header from point-blank range just after the half-hour mark.

    At the other end, Lionel Messi shot straight at Walter Benitez, while Achraf Hakimi blazed a good opportunity wide when the ball broke kindly for him just before half-time.

    Di Maria was played in behind the defence six minutes after the break, but Benitez was out quickly to block him.

    Dolberg then saw a glorious opportunity go begging in the 59th minute, as he somehow headed onto the post from two yards out with the goal gaping.

    A clever ball by Messi released Mbappe at the other end, but the France international could only shoot wide with just the goalkeeper to beat.

    PSG pressed for a dramatic winner as the clock ticked down, but were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.