Lionel Messi has finally signed his eagerly anticipated Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) contract to complete the move that confirms the end of a career-long association with Barcelona and sends PSG into a new era.
PSG said in a statement that the 34-year-old Argentina star signed a two-year deal on Tuesday night with the option for a third season.
“I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain,” Messi said.
“Everything about the club matches my football ambitions. I know how talented the squad and the coaching staff are here. I am determined to help build something special for the club and the fans, and I am looking forward to stepping out onto the pitch at the Parc des Princes.”
No salary details were given but Messi is set to earn approximately 35 million euros ($41m) net, according to the Associated Press news agency, who spoke to a person with knowledge of the negotiations on condition of anonymity before the contract was signed.
“I am delighted that Lionel Messi has chosen to join Paris Saint-Germain and we are proud to welcome him and his family to Paris,” PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi said.
“He has made no secret of his desire to continue competing at the very highest level and winning trophies, and naturally our ambition as a club is to do the same.”
Messi will wear the number 30, as revealed in a video by the club, the number he had when he began his professional career at Barcelona between 2004-2006.
Throngs of PSG fans gathered at Le Bourget Airport in Paris to welcome Messi, who was wearing a T-shirt that read: “Ici c’est Paris” (This is Paris).
The words are a long-familiar refrain from a favoured fan chant at Parc des Princes stadium, where Messi will be presented to them before kickoff of Saturday night’s game against Strasbourg.
Such was the fan fervour around his arrival that police had to push back to stop metal barriers from toppling over at the airport as fans surged forward to get a better view. He then travelled into Paris with a police escort that included several black-clad officers on motorbikes.
As disbelief at landing one of football’s all-time greats turned to sheer enthusiasm, many gathered for a glimpse of Messi at the stadium. They got their wish as the smiling superstar briefly waved to them before he began his medical checkup.
Earlier, Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, had also confirmed his son was moving to PSG in a brief exchange with reporters at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport in the early afternoon.
Messi arrived with his wife and three children and boarded a private jet.
“With it all, toward a new adventure. The five together,” Antonela Roccuzzo said on Instagram on a photo with her husband on the plane.
PSG supporters have seen their club transformed over the last 10 years since the influx of Qatari sovereign wealth investment linked to the emir. Once Messi’s Barcelona contract expired – and the Catalan club could not afford to keep him – PSG was one of the few clubs that could finance a deal to sign the six-time world player of the year.
Messi’s arrival gives PSG formidable attacking options as he links up with France World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe and Brazil forward Neymar.
“Back together,” Neymar posted on Instagram over a video of them hugging, playing for Barcelona.
While PSG had to pay 222 million euros (then $261m) to sign Neymar from Barcelona in 2017, there was no transfer fee for Messi.
Messi became the most desired free agent in football history after his attempts to stay at Barcelona were rejected last week by the Spanish league because his salary would not comply with financial regulations. The Catalan club is burdened by more than 1.2 billion euros ($1.4bn) in debt.
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino quickly contacted his fellow Argentinian after Barcelona announced last Thursday that Messi would be leaving the club he joined as a 13-year-old.
Messi won every notable honour with Barcelona and his tearful exit news conference on Sunday signalled the end of an era. Only Cristiano Ronaldo in the current era challenges Messi’s status as an all-time great.
PSG will be hoping not only that Messi helps the team regain the French title it lost to Lille last season, but finally win the Champions League.
Messi, who won four Champions Leagues and 10 domestic league titles with Barcelona, joins several other big names arriving at PSG on a free transfer this summer.
Spain defender Sergio Ramos was no longer wanted at Real Madrid, Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum had run down his contract with Liverpool, and Italy’s Euro 2020-winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma also joined after his contract with AC Milan ran out.
Former Barcelona and PSG midfielder Ronaldinho wished Messi “many moments of joy” on Tuesday. The pair had played together at Barcelona between 2004 and 2008.
“It’s a great joy to have played in these two clubs and now see my friend wearing this shirt, may there be many moments of joy Leo!” Ronaldinho said on Twitter. “I’m also very happy with my partner @sergioramos on the team and a super cast, I’m feeling Champions,” he added.
The arrival of Messi, whose last contract with Barcelona was worth a total of 555 million euros ($650m) and reported to be the most lucrative in world sport, is also set to provoke a renewed debate about UEFA’s financial fair play rules.
European football’s governing body introduced the rules in 2009 in an attempt to restrict the power of free-spending owners to buy winning results, but their success is debatable.
The star-power of Messi, who has 245 million followers on Instagram, will be welcome news for Ligue 1 as a battle rages between broadcasters over the price of its television rights, crucial to the finances of the clubs.