Xavi feels sympathy for Lionel Messi and his former club Barcelona following the superstar forward's switch to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi held a tearful news conference on Sunday to confirm the end of his 21-year stay at Camp Nou ahead of completing a move to PSG on Tuesday.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner revealed both he and Barcelona did everything possible to agree a new deal, but it was made impossible by "financial and structural obstacles".

Xavi, who won 24 trophies playing in the same side as Messi prior to departing Barca in 2015, is upset that the Argentina international was effectively forced out of the door.

"I'm just so sad for Leo," Xavi, who is now managing Qatari club Al Sadd, told The Times. "It's a pity to see he and the club couldn't find a solution.

"I know that Leo wanted to stay, but in the end it could not be sorted.

"The only thing I can say now is that I will miss him a lot. It's even hard for me to picture Messi with a shirt other than Barca's. 

"It's sad for Leo, especially for how I saw him emotionally at the Camp Nou the other day, but for FC Barcelona as well."

 

As Barcelona get set to begin a new season without Messi for the first time since 2003, there will be plenty of onus on others in Ronald Koeman's squad stepping up.

One of those who has already made big strides in his first full campaign at Camp Nou is young midfielder Pedri, who also impressed for Spain at Euro 2020 and the Olympics.

He played more passes in the opposition half (461) than any player at Euro 2020.

Pedri's 421 successful passes was bettered by only four players, with the 18-year-old completing 65 of the 66 attempted in the semi-final loss to Italy – that one misplaced pass coming in extra time.

And Xavi can see similarities between Pedri and another Barcelona icon in Andres Iniesta, who spent 16 years in Barcelona's first team.

"Pedri is unbelievable. The kid has Iniesta's profile of a player, for sure," Xavi said.

"Watching him play at his age, doing what he does, leaves you with the only answer: he'll be great. Actually, he already is so impressive, but he can be even better."

While Spain's campaign ended at the last four stage, England reached the final on home soil before suffering a cruel defeat to Italy on penalties.

Xavi was impressed by what he saw from Gareth Southgate's side and in particular a couple of their midfielders.

"I've seen England at a fantastic level. They have absolutely everything in the squad. Well, actually they were not champions just because of a penalty," he said.

"This generation is young, physically strong but also great technically. With this group of players, they'll always be competitive.

"I can see them fighting for the World Cup, without a shadow of a doubt. They are almost there.

"I think that sooner rather than later they'll have this spark of luck you need to win trophies.

"I have also been hugely impressed by the two midfielders, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips. I did not know them that well, but they were superb.

"You can see a centre-back like John Stones and how he plays the ball out from the defence.

"Next to him there's [Harry] Maguire, who drives up the ball to split the opponent's pressing. 

"How the full-backs and wing-backs behave for the team . . . there are details that speak volumes of Southgate's work."

 

Euro 2020 was a rather mixed tournament for Phil Foden, who started England's first two matches but struggled to make an impact and was largely overlooked from that point on.

"I think he is an unreal talent for a lot of reasons," Xavi said of the Manchester City midfielder. "He has an amazing work rate, but also his decision-making is ace. 

"He's strong, quick, has a sense of goal, great passer and shooter... There's everything in the pack.

"I would have loved to see more game time for Foden. When you have this number of talented players, all I can think of is putting them on the pitch. 

"I understand it's very tough to make changes with the squad Southgate had. There were a lot of options in his hands and only eleven could play. 

"But it's a pity to see so many special talents with not much playing time."

Lionel Messi has targeted Champions League glory with Paris Saint-Germain after finalising a "complicated" exit from Barcelona.

The Argentina international's 21-year association with Barca officially ended on Tuesday when joining PSG on a two-year deal with the option of a third.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi looked certain to sign a new long-term deal at Camp Nou, but financial complications at the LaLiga club forced him out of the door.

Less than a week after Barca announced the 34-year-old was to leave, he was unveiled as a PSG player at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.

Reflecting on a whirlwind week, Messi admits it was difficult departing the only club that he has represented in his career to date.

"It's been a very hard moment after so many years," he said at a news conference. "It was a difficult change after so much time. But the moment I arrived here I felt very happy. 

"I'm really enjoying my time in Paris and want to begin training now, starting this new moment in my life.

"The club were really quick with negotiations. It's been a really easy process, even if it was a tricky situation. I want to thank them for sorting out any problems."

 

He added: "Everything that happened to me this week has been very strange. It's been emotional. I can't forget what I lived and experienced at Barcelona.

"But I feel impatient and ready for this new life with my family. I'm very happy. This whole week I've been going through up and downs, but we are processing all of this little by little every day. 

"I was in Barcelona when the press talked about the move. The people in Paris were already outside. It was incredible to see them in the streets. I really want to see them in the city, in the stadium. It will be an incredible year."

Messi departs Barcelona having scored 672 goals and assisted 265 more for the Catalan giants across 778 appearances.

He won 35 trophies at Camp Nou, including four Champions League triumphs.

PSG have never won the competition, coming closest to doing so last year when losing to Bayern Munich in the final, but Messi is hopeful of lifting the famous trophy once again.

"I still want to play and I still want to win, as I did at start of my career," he said of his ambitions with the French giants. "This club it is ready to fight for all the trophies.

"That is my goal. I want to keep growing and winning titles. That's why I came here to this club. I hope we can make it happen."

 

Asked specifically about PSG's Champions League hopes, Messi said: "This team is ready. There are some new transfers, but they have been close and are ready to win it.

"I have just come here to help. My dream is to win this trophy again and I think Paris is the best place to do so.

"It was very complicated to exit Barcelona without knowing where I would go. Barcelona was my home since I was a kid. 

"I knew I'd arrive in a strong team that was aiming to win the Champions League, which I love to win. I know my goals and Paris' goals are the same. 

"It's difficult to win it, you need a strong group. Luck is also a factor. Sometimes the best team in the world does not win. We want to win the Champions League."

Messi may cross paths with Barcelona in UEFA's showpiece competition this coming campaign, potentially giving the superstar forward a chance to sign off at Camp Nou in front of supporters.

"It would be very nice to go back, hopefully with fans," Messi said. "It would be very strange to play at home, there in Barcelona, in another shirt, but it could happen."

Kylian Mbappe has "no excuse" to leave Paris Saint-Germain following Lionel Messi's arrival, according to club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

Messi was unveiled at a press conference at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday while thousands of fans gathered outside the stadium to welcome the superstar forward.

The Argentina captain signed a two-year deal, with the option of a further 12 months, after Barcelona were unable follow through on the terms they agreed with the 34-year-old due to financial problems.

Mbappe has less than year remaining on his contract with the Ligue 1 club but PSG president Al-Khelaifi believes the France forward has no option but to stay and play alongside Messi and Neymar.

"Everyone knows the future of Kylian," said Al-Khelaifi. "He's a competitive player who wants to win trophies - he's said that himself.

"He wanted a competitive team, [with Messi] there is no excuse. He can't do anything else but stay."

Al-Khelaifi insists PSG are in no danger of breaching UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations after luring Messi to the French capital.

Asked about FFP, he replied: "A very great question, thank you. We have checked and we knew we had the capacity to sign Leo.

"What Leo brings to the club is huge, that is what you media need to focus on, not the negative, the positive."

Nasser Al-Khelaifi expects Lionel Messi to win "a lot of trophies" for Paris Saint-Germain after the Argentina captain was unveiled at the Parc des Princes on an "historic" day for the Ligue 1 club.

PSG confirmed the signing of mercurial forward Messi on a two-year deal on Tuesday, with the option of a further year.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner left Barcelona as the LaLiga giants were unable to afford to keep the 34-year-old.

Messi scored 672 times in 778 appearances for the Blaugrana, winning the Champions League four times and claiming 10 LaLiga titles.

PSG president Al-Khelaifi believes he will add many more honours at PSG, declaring the signing of Messi to be "just the start".

"I am very happy and proud to present Lionel Messi as PSG player. It is an historic day for the club and football world and is a fantastic moment for us," Al-Khelaifi said as thousands of fans gathered outside the stadium to welcome their new hero.

"It will be very exciting for our fans and fans worldwide. It is amazing what we have tried to achieve.

“We have a big ambition, a football project. We are very proud of where we are today. There is no secret this agreement is with this best player in the world." 

Al-Khelaifi added: "There was a great desire on both sides to make this happen.

"This is just the start as the hard work will start now, on the pitch and off the pitch, but most important the person next to me has won a lot of trophies and I'm sure he will bring a lot more trophies to this club."

 

Ossie Ardiles believes Lionel Messi will form a stronger bond with Mauricio Pochettino than he has with any other manager after the Argentina captain's sensational move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi has signed a two-year deal with PSG after Barca were unable to keep the superstar forward for financial reasons.

Former Argentina midfielder Ardiles expects the six-time Ballon d'Or to revel in playing under his compatriot Pochettino.

Ardiles also feels the presence of fellow Argentinians Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi and Leandro Paredes can only be a positive for Messi.

"Messi is not just Argentinian, but a global player. Of course he is able to play with anyone and he is also able to play at any style of game. This is how enormous his game is," Ardiles told Stats Perform News.

"it helps to have that many Argentinians. Mauricio, for instance, is from the same city [as Messi], Rosario. Obviously, they speak same language.

"It will be very important for Lionel Messi to have Mauricio there. Messi got along well with almost every manager, but I think it will be even better with Mauricio.

"Being with Di Maria, Paredes and Icardi will help, but I also think these players don’t play the full Argentinian style. They are very global. Icardi has been in Italy and now at PSG. The same for Paredes or Di Maria, being also in English football. From that point of view, there won’t be any issue, for sure."

Messi scored 672 times in 778 appearances for the Blaugrana, winning the Champions League four times and claiming 10 LaLiga titles.

The 34-year-old was reduced to tears during an emotional farewell press conference and Ardiles fears for Barca following the departure of the inspirational skipper - especially considering the desperate state of the club's finances.

 

Ardiles added: "Barca stays very, very hurt. Actually, the situation is absolutely critical. To lose the best player in the world is tough.

"He has spent 20 years in the club, he is the symbol, the captain… he is everything. I really think there are coming very tough times for Barcelona.

"We were used to seeing Barcelona leading the game and being the team to be beaten. If you wanted to lift the Champions League or LaLiga you had to beat Barcelona. That will all change with Messi's departure. Absolutely.

"On the other hand, Barcelona spent so much money. That's why it is in this situation now. Like people say, it has likely been [the fault of] the previous board, but the fact is Barcelona has spent much more than they could.

"So, nowadays, Barcelona cannot go to the market and buy the best player in the world, not even keep him in his own squad. And it can't either go to the market to buy the current stars, as they don't have money to do it.

"However, Barcelona is a very big club, an extraordinary club and of course it will be back. But I think it will take a long time."

For Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League rivals, the most daunting thing is that they have seen this all before.

Lionel Messi has been unveiled as the Ligue 1 giants' latest superstar signing, reuniting him with friend and former team-mate Neymar at the Parc des Princes.

As Barcelona did between 2014 and 2017, though, PSG have more besides the great Argentina and Brazil number 10s.

At Camp Nou, Luis Suarez arrived from Liverpool to quickly link up with his two fellow forwards and fire Barca to European glory.

This time, Kylian Mbappe, already at PSG, is the third man in a frightening front line.

On paper, it is a terrifying prospect, but can the PSG trio work together as Barca's famous 'MSN' did for three years?

Goals and assists galore

Across the three seasons Messi, Suarez and Neymar played together in Catalonia, the three players ranked first (149), third (128) and joint-sixth (89) for goal involvements in Europe's top five leagues.

Only four players registered both 30 goals and 30 assists in that period and three of them played for Barca. Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, was the other.

Barca and Ronaldo's Real Madrid accounted for six of the 10 highest-scoring LaLiga seasons by a team in the competition's history over the space of those three years.

Spanish football has never before or since been as exciting – and Messi, Suarez and Neymar (and Ronaldo) were at the forefront, pushing one another on.

In that time, Messi and Suarez combined for a goal every 198 minutes in the league (36 in total from 144 chances created together). Messi and Neymar between them created 2.1 chances for one another per 90 minutes, resulting in 22 assists, while Suarez and Neymar were also an effective combination with 26 assists.

 

Messi and Neymar had already had a single season together in 2013-14, so it was Suarez's seamless introduction that was most impressive. His 43 assists over those three years tied with Messi and trailed only Kevin De Bruyne (47).

This time it is Messi's turn to join an established duo, with Neymar and Mbappe setting an alarming standard in their limited time together on the pitch.

Injuries to Neymar have limited them to 3,552 minutes – less than half as many as Messi and Suarez over a longer period – but they have combined for 102 chances (2.6 per 90) and 21 assists (one every 169 minutes).

Missing the middle man

The similarities in this context are clear, but Mbappe and Suarez are very different players in a number of ways, including their positioning. Messi and Neymar have changed their roles since they first combined, too, and that is why this front three might require a little work at first.

In 2014-15, their first season together at Barca, the Blaugrana trio's touch maps told the tale of a balanced forward line.

A huge 60.1 per cent of Neymar's touches were on the left flank in the attacking half, with 33.4 per cent concentrated in an area just outside the box.

With the former Santos man staying left, Messi and Suarez were able to link up across the rest of the final third. Messi started from the right but took 22.5 per cent of his touches in the very centre of the attacking half, the same zone in which Suarez enjoyed 17.9 per cent of his touches.

Suarez, with 20.4 per cent of his touches on the left wing in the final third and 23.1 per cent on the right, was capable of drifting out to either side to create space but would rarely occupy these spaces for an extended period. That is a crucial contrast to Mbappe.

Mbappe last season took 57.9 per cent of his touches on the left flank in the attacking half, with only 11.6 per cent on the right. That left-sided share actually dwarfed Neymar's 46.3 per cent in the same position, indicating both their lack of playing time together and a slightly freer role for the world's most expensive player.

 

Indeed, the natural striker is the one of the three PSG forwards who uses the least of his touches through the centre. Messi, like Neymar, has become even more of a central figure since breaking away from the 'MSN' attack, last term taking 25.1 per cent of his touches in a central position just outside the box.

These touches speak to a fluid PSG approach, but they may need Mbappe to stretch the play down the middle and provide a focal point – something Suarez did that suits neither Messi nor Neymar.

Pressing from the front

Barca's front three of 2014-15 were not just brilliant in possession, they were also an effective force without the ball, winning it back to quickly get on the attack once more.

Luis Enrique's men allowed just 7.0 passes per defensive action (PPDA), not letting their opponents rest and forcing 370 high turnovers that contributed to starting their attacks 44.7 metres upfield on average.

PSG are starting from a slightly lower, if still impressive, base in a pressing sense this season. They allowed 8.9 PPDA and forced 337 high turnovers to start attacks 43.7 metres upfield on average.

It is likely Mauricio Pochettino, who employed a pressing game at Tottenham, will want to move up another gear in his first full season at the club, but that might be easier said than done with the players at his disposal.

In 2014-15, Messi led all LaLiga forwards in winning possession 37 times in the final third. Neymar (26) was second and Suarez (16) joint-11th. Across Europe's top five leagues, only Karim Bellarabi (also 37) could match Messi in this regard.

Messi has never since tallied as many final-third recoveries, with that rate of 1.0 per 90 now halved to 0.5 at the age of 34.

Neymar, in limited minutes, reached a new high by winning possession 1.3 times per 90 in 2020-21, yet his tackle rate of 0.9 is considerably down on 2014-15's high of 1.5.

Mbappe twice recovered the ball in the final third in PSG's opening league game of this season against Troyes and last year peaked with 23 such examples across the campaign, but they counted among 59 total possession gains – Messi and Neymar each passed 100 in 2014-15.

So, a revival of that devastating Barca press in Paris seems unlikely at this stage, even if Messi and Neymar, with a new partner, look primed to thrill again.

Whether the silky interplay is as effective without the other side of the game is a query that should be answered by May.

Inter Milan have their eye on a Premier League forward. 

With Romelu Lukaku heading back to England, the Nerazzurri are eyeing Anthony Martial.

However, Manchester United do not appear willing to let him go.

 

TOP STORY - UNITED WANT TO KEEP MARTIAL

Inter Milan want Anthony Martial to bolster their attack, according to multiple reports, but it does not sound like he is available. 

The Mail claims United are prepared to reject a £50million offer for the 25-year-old, who is still easing his way back in after injuring his knee in March.

Martial is under contract until 2024, with an option for an additional year at Old Trafford, so there is no urgency for United to move him on. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Meanwhile, Edin Dzeko's move from Roma to Inter is "imminent" according to Fabrizio Romano, with the 35-year-old set to sign through to 2023. 

- United and Arsenal have interest in Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso, according to a Bild report, with Juventus and West Ham also rumoured to be possibilities for the Fran. 

- Bild also says Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton are eyeing Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria

- Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga is on United's radar but FootMercato reports Paris Saint-Germain could swoop for the 18-year-old despite a need to balance the books following Lionel Messi's addition.

- Leicester City and Sevilla could be set to bid for Schalke defender Ozan Kabak, according to Calciomercato.

- Veteran goalkeeper Sergio Romero is set to join Granada on a free transfer, as per Romano. 

- Everton are considering a move for 24-year-old Antwerp right-back Aurelio Buta, the Sun reports, saying the Belgian club want £3m. 

Paris Saint-Germain have once again rocked the world of sport after they confirmed the signing of Lionel Messi.

As bizarre as that may look written down, the deal is complete with the Argentina forward signing a two-year deal following his Barcelona departure.

Barca announced last Thursday that their dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions after his previous contract expired in June. He had spent his entire career at Camp Nou.

But the Parc des Princes now beckons and he will form probably the most-feared front three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and his old friend Neymar.

It's with the Brazilian where Stats Perform starts in this look at a selection of other sporting deals that shocked the world.

 

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of French domestic football but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final and then failed to inspire the team in the 2021 semis as Manchester City knocked them out. But maybe Messi will be the final piece of the puzzle...

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history and instantly guided them to glory, leading the Buccaneers to the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy with a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move. 

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

Lionel Messi has joined Paris Saint-Germain on an initial two-year deal after calling time on his 18-year Barcelona career.

Messi became arguably the greatest footballer of all time at Camp Nou, scoring 672 times in 778 appearances, but his prolific spell came to an end after Barca's dire financial situation forced the club's hand.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner had been a free agent since July 1, though the expectation was for him to sign a new contract at the Catalan club.

However, last Thursday's announcement he would not re-sign with Barca due to "financial and structural obstacles" prompted PSG to move quickly.

The 34-year-old was said to be a target a year ago when he stated his desire to leave, but ended up staying and playing out the final year of his contract.

Having teased the signing throughout the day on social media, PSG finally confirmed it with a video that included footage of their new recruit standing in the centre circle of the Parc des Princes. 

He will wear the number 30 shirt and while PSG confirmed the initial contract length, it is widely reported there is an option in place for a further year.

Messi will be reunited with former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, who joined PSG in a world-record deal in 2017, and link-up with Kylian Mbappe, with that trio set to form a devastating forward line.

Mbappe's future is in doubt with the France star having only one year left on his contract, though there has been talk that Messi's signing could convince him to agree new terms with PSG.

During his time at Barcelona, Messi claimed four Champions League triumphs alongside 10 LaLiga titles.

The forward finally won a senior international trophy in July, firing in four goals and adding five assists to secure Argentina's first Copa America success since 1993.

Messi's acquisition marks the culmination of a transfer window that has seen PSG add significantly to their squad, signing Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi after missing out on the Ligue 1 title and losing in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

Lionel Messi is a Paris Saint-Germain player. It may still seem a bit hard to take in, particularly as such a scenario looked so unlikely as recently as last week, the deal is complete.

Messi has signed a two-year deal at the Parc des Princes and will form probably the most-feared front three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and his old friend Neymar.

Barcelona's dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions.

Messi's contract expired at the end of June and, although Barca president Joan Laporta confirmed the two parties had reached an agreement, the numbers made a deal impossible. The Blaugrana chief confirmed at a monumental press conference that the deal to keep the talismanic forward at Camp Nou was dead.

Step forward PSG. Just as they gutted Barca four years ago when triggering Neymar's release clause to leave them utterly helpless, the Parisians have swooped in again and wasted no time about it. A matter of hours had passed between Laporta's news conference and the emergence of widespread reports suggesting Paris beckoned.

What Messi goes on to achieve in France remains to be seen, but using Opta data, Stats Perform looks at some of the incredible feats that have make him such a colossal signing for PSG.

 

Messi played 778 games for Barcelona in all competitions, scoring 672 goals and providing 265 assists across those games. That amounts to 937 goal involvements during his Barca career, which began as a 17-year-old.

Previously a one-club man, his first appearance for Barcelona came under Frank Rijkaard against Espanyol in October 2004, while his first goal arrived seven months later against Albacete at Camp Nou from a Ronaldinho assist.

Brazil great Ronaldinho was the last Barcelona player to wear the famed number 10 before Messi took that shirt in 2008 and made it his own.

But Ronaldinho does not feature among the top assisters for Messi goals, a list that is led by Luis Suarez (47). Dani Alves assisted 42 of the attacker's goals and third is Andres Iniesta with 37, six more than fellow legendary midfielder Xavi.

 

Messi played under eight different coaches during his time with Barcelona. Of those, he featured most often (219 appearances) and scored the most goals (211) during Pep Guardiola's tenure.

However, the 60 goals Messi scored in 50 games under the late Tito Vilanova – an average of 1.20 goals per match – was his best goals-per-game return with a single coach.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Messi's lowest average goals-per-game ratio was during the Rijkaard era at the start of his career (0.38), followed by the 0.63 managed under Quique Setien between January and August 2020.

 

Messi's most prolific season as a Barcelona player was in 2011-12 when scoring a remarkable 73 goals in all competitions and providing a further 28 assists, setting a personal record in both categories.

Indeed, the forward netted 79 goals for his club across the calendar year in 2012, which is a record amount by a single player. His next most prolific year was 2010 when registering 58 times.

In more recent years, Messi managed 51 goals in 2016, 50 goals in 2017, 47 goals in 2018, 45 goals in 2019 and 26 goals in 2020 – a steady decline that he had already rectified this year, having scored 28 times in the first half of 2021.

He is the only player to have scored 10 or more goals in LaLiga in 15 consecutive seasons.

 

Messi's 672 goals for Barcelona were scored against 82 different teams. Sevilla were his favourite opponent, finding the net against them 38 times in 43 appearances.

Atletico Madrid were next on that particular list, with Messi bagging 32 goals in that fixture, followed by Valencia (31), Athletic Bilbao (29) and bitter rivals Real Madrid (26), making him the leading all-time scorer in El Clasico.

In terms of individual goalkeepers, Diego Alves was Messi's most-frequent victim, the former Almeria and Valencia man having conceded 21 goals against the Argentina superstar.

Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas was joint-third with 17 goals against, one less than the 18 Messi put past Gorka Iraizoz.

 

Messi is of course synonymous with Camp Nou, a ground where he has scored 394 goals in 381 games at an average of 1.03 per match. Madrid fans will be particularly sick of him as he has scored 15 times in 22 games at the Santiago Bernabeu – his second favourite venue.

That is followed by Vicente Calderon, Atletico's old home (14 goals in 20 appearances). Deportivo La Coruna's Riazor (13 in eight) and Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan (13 in 18) complete the top five.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Messi has played more times at Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena (three) without scoring than at any other stadium for Barcelona. He is also without a goal in two trips to English grounds Anfield and Old Trafford.

 

Messi's other notable records and achievements

– Messi is the all-time LaLiga top scorer with 474 goals and is the second-highest scorer ever in Europe's top five leagues behind Cristiano Ronaldo (476).

– He scored in 21 consecutive LaLiga games between November 2012 and May 2013, a record for a player in the competition's history.

– The Newell's Old Boys product is one of only two players to reach 100 goals in Champions League history (120), alongside Cristiano Ronaldo (134).

– Messi was the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match, doing so against Bayer Leverkusen in March 2012 at Camp Nou.

– The Argentina forward is one of six players to score more than 50 goals in Copa del Rey's history and the only one to score in six different finals in the tournament (Telmo Zarra scored in five).

Lionel Messi will help Paris Saint-Germain make history, according to club chairman and chief executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

PSG secured Messi's signature after the forward had failed to agree fresh terms with Barcelona, who are enduring financial difficulties amid complications with LaLiga.

The 34-year-old moves to the Parc des Princes having scored 672 times in 778 appearances for his former club and furthers PSG's already remarkable depth of attacking talent.

After confirming Messi's arrival on Tuesday, Al-Khelaifi said: "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.

"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.

"The addition of Leo to our world class squad continues a very strategic and successful transfer window for the club. Led by our outstanding coach and his staff, I look forward to the team making history together for our fans all around the world."

Messi joins former colleague Neymar as he prepares to form a startling front three with the Brazil forward and France star Kylian Mbappe.

The signings of Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Georginio Wijnaldum alongside Achraf Hakimi strengthened Mauricio Pochettino's men, but Messi's historic move could take PSG to a new level.

Having been pipped to the Ligue 1 crown by Lille last term, PSG started their quest to reclaim the title with a 2-1 win at Troyes on Saturday and will hope the addition of Messi can inspire them to a first Champions League success.

Messi has won four Champions League titles with Barcelona alongside 10 LaLiga triumphs.

The forward also guided Argentina to their first Copa America success since 1993, scoring four goals as he sealed his first senior international trophy in July.

The Lionel Messi transfer saga is over after Paris Saint-Germain confirmed the signing of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Despite becoming a free agent at the end of June, the Barcelona legend was expected to sign a new contract with the Catalan club, reportedly agreeing a 50 per cent reduction in wages.

However, due to Barca's dire financial situations and LaLiga's salary restrictions, Messi and the Spanish giants had to part ways.

With Messi – who scored a staggering 672 goals for Barca in all competitions – remaining unattached, PSG quickly swooped in and sealed the forward's signature, assembling a formidable front trio that also boasts Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

So, how did it all come to this? The timeline below shows it has been quite the soap opera.
 

January 13, 2020 – Despite the club being top of LaLiga, Barca confirm the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde four days on from a Supercopa de Espana defeat to Atletico Madrid. Quique Setien is appointed as head coach on a two-and-a-half-year contract, with a supposed return for Blaugrana legend Xavi failing to come to fruition.

February 3, 2020 – In an interview with Catalan publication Sport, sporting director Eric Abidal says the club had begun considering Valverde's future after the 0-0 draw with Real Madrid on December 18. He adds that he and his colleagues identified "many players weren't satisfied nor working hard and there was also an internal communication problem".

February 4, 2020 – Messi hits back at Abidal, calling on him to name individuals rather than tar every player with the same brush. Writing on Instagram and highlighting a section of Abidal's quotes, Messi says: "I honestly don't like to do these things, but I think everyone has to be responsible for their tasks and take care of their decisions. The players [are responsible for] what happens on the pitch and we are also the first to recognise when we are not playing well. Those responsible for the area of​​ sports management must also assume their responsibilities and especially for the decisions they make. Finally, I think that when talking about players we should give names, because if not we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true." Furthermore, ESPN report Messi has been playing through a thigh problem for a number of weeks after the club failed to sign attacking reinforcements and let Carles Perez and Abel Ruiz leave after Luis Suarez was ruled out for four months.

March 30, 2020 – Amid the coronavirus lockdown, Messi confirms the players agreed to a 70 per cent pay cut. However, he makes it clear he is unhappy about pressure put on them. He posts on Instagram: "Much has been written and said about the Barcelona team in regards to the salaries of the players during this state of emergency. We want to clarify that our will has always been to take a cut in the salary we receive, because we fully understand that this is an exceptional situation and we are always the first ones to help the club when asked. Therefore, it does not surprise us that from within the club there were those who tried to put us under pressure to do something we always knew we would do. The agreement has been delayed for a few days because we were looking for a formula to help the club and its workers during these difficult times."

July 16, 2020 – Barca suffer a shock 2-1 home defeat against Osasuna, handing Madrid the league title. Messi makes his dissatisfaction known, saying that they must improve quickly or risk Champions League elimination in their last-16 second leg against Napoli. In a post-match interview, he tells Movistar: "People are losing patience after defeats to Roma and Liverpool in recent years. We need a break and forget about this if we want to fight for the Champions League. We need to change a lot, otherwise we will also lose against Napoli. I already said before that playing like this we won't be able to fight for the Champions League and you see, we could not even fight for the league. We need to be self-critical."

August 14, 2020 – While they managed to get past Napoli despite an unconvincing performance, Barcelona are thrashed 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-final. It is their heaviest defeat in European competition and the most goals they have conceded in a single game since 1946.

August 17, 2020 – Setien is sacked by the club and presidential elections are brought forward to March as the club signals its intention to rebuild. It is reported that the majority of the first team are put for sale.

August 18, 2020 – Sporting director Abidal is relieved of his duties a day after informing Setien his time with the club was up.

August 19, 2020 – Barca icon Ronald Koeman is appointed head coach on a two-year contract. He said of Messi upon being presented to the media: "He is a Barcelona player. He has another year [on his contract]. I don't know if I have to convince him to stay."

August 22, 2020 – Tensions increase as Argentine publication Clarin claims Messi is furious that details of a meeting with Koeman were leaked to the media. RAC1 had reported Messi told the new coach he is 'more outside the club than inside' and he had little faith in president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Koeman is alleged to have said to Messi: "The privileges in this squad are over, you had to do everything for the team. I'm going to be inflexible; you must only be thinking about the team."

August 24, 2020 – Messi's close friend Suarez is one of four players – the others being Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti – supposedly told by Koeman they have no future at the club. Suarez, Vidal and Rakitic all subsequently depart.

August 25, 2020 – Messi informs Barca he intends to leave the club, using a clause in his contract to exit on a free transfer, via burofax. Manchester City promptly emerge as favourites for his signature.

August 30, 2020  – LaLiga claims the €700million release clause in Messi's Barca contract remains valid and must be paid for his deal to be terminated unilaterally. On the same day, Messi fails to report for pre-season coronavirus testing.

September 4, 2020  – Messi confirms he will stay at Barcelona for the final year of his contract in an emotional interview, in which it is all too apparent his preference would have been to leave.

October 27, 2020  – Pressure on the board persists with the clock ticking on that deal. Even with presidential elections on the horizon, in which he would not be able to stand for a third term, Bartomeu faces a vote of no confidence and instead announces his resignation, along with the entire Barcelona board. The outgoing president claims the club have begun proceedings to join a European Super League.

December 22, 2020  – Joan Laporta, previously president between 2003 and 2010, emerges as the leading candidate for the March elections and declares confidence he will convince Messi to stay. "If I win the elections, I want to make a very competitive proposal and I know he will listen to me. I want him to stay," he tells RAC1. "I have an advantage over others, he knows I've always fulfilled what I said. We have a good relationship, we appreciate each other and we respect each other."

February 1, 2021  – With his successor still to be elected, Bartomeu is forced to deny leaking details of Messi's contract. Spanish newspaper El Mundo reports the deal Messi signed in 2017 could earn him in excess of €555m. It was also revealed Barca's debts had risen above €1.1billion, with the COVID-19 pandemic having a huge impact.

March 7, 2021  – After Messi and his team-mates vote in the elections, Laporta is confirmed as Barca's new president. He wins 54.28 per cent of the vote and continues to speak of confidence Messi will commit to his only senior club. "Seeing the best player in the world come out to vote today is a clear sign of what we keep saying," he says. "Leo loves Barca."

April 18, 2021  – Barca, led by Laporta, are one of 12 elite clubs to announce their involvement in a breakaway European Super League.

April 22, 2021  – The unpopular Super League plans quickly collapse, but Barca, Real Madrid and Juventus remain committed to the project. Given the Blaugrana's dire financial situation, Laporta claims the lucrative proposed competition is "absolutely necessary".

May 28, 2021  – The season ends with no new Messi deal in place, although Laporta insists negotiations are "progressing well". However, he also promises new signings, which do not tally with the club's financial difficulties. Sure enough, Sergio Aguero, Eric Garcia, Emerson Royal and Memphis Depay are all soon signed, but there is little by way of outgoing movement.

June 30, 2021  – Messi's contract officially expires, making him a free agent. While LaLiga president Javier Tebas refuses to ease the competition's salary restrictions, Laporta says: "We are doing well but you have to fit a deal into the financial fair play."

August 4, 2021  – LaLiga confirms a €2.7billion deal with CVC Capital Partners, with 90 per cent of the injection earmarked for clubs. Only €42m of this is set to be available for Barca to spend on transfers and wages, but it is hoped this investment will help the Blaugrana do the deal as Messi's father Jorge prepares to fly in for talks.

August 5, 2021  – After widespread reports in Spain tell of a hitch in the deal, Barca sensationally announce Messi will leave the club. "Despite having reached an agreement between FC Barcelona and Leo Messi and with the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, it will not be possible to formalise it due to economic and structural obstacles (Spanish LaLiga regulations)," a statement read. "Given this situation, Lionel Messi will not continue to be linked to FC Barcelona. Both sides deeply regret that the wishes of both the player and the club cannot ultimately be fulfilled. Barca would like to thank the player most sincerely for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the institution and wishes him the best in his personal and professional life."

August 6, 2021 – In a long and in-depth press conference, Laporta made it clear there was simply no margin in Barca's salary situation to retain Messi, despite the player wanting to stay. He reveals a five-year agreement paying him two years of salary had been agreed, but was not cleared by LaLiga amid financial fair play rules. "In LaLiga, we have to abide by the rules, we feel they could be more flexible but that's not an excuse. We knew we couldn't abide by it due to the situation," he said, admitting a decision had been taken amid opposing the competition's deal with CVC Capital Partners that would "affect the club for the next 50 years". If the statement had not made it clear enough, Laporta admitted Messi's time with the club is over.

August 10, 2021 –  PSG confirm the worst-kept secret, announcing the signing of Messi on a two-year deal that also reportedly includes an option for a further season. The Ligue 1 side seemingly enjoyed a free run at the forward after Pep Guardiola had indicated he was not an option for Manchester City. Having teased the official unveiling for several hours, PSG finally confirmed the deal with a video that included their new recruit standing in the middle of the Parc des Princes wearing the number 30 shirt. "I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain. Everything about the club matches my football ambitions," said Messi, who is the biggest of all the big names to join the club in the transfer window.

Lionel Messi is determined to "build something special" at the Parc des Princes after signing for Paris Saint-Germain.

The former Barcelona star, who scored 672 times in 778 appearances for the Blaugrana, was expected to sign a new contract at Camp Nou but financial complications forced him out the door.

Mauricio Pochettino's men promptly swooped in to seal one of the most momentous signings in history, confirming the deal on Tuesday.

Upon completing his move to the French giants, Messi said: "I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain. 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."

Lionel Messi has joined Paris Saint-Germain on an initial two-year deal after calling time on his 18-year Barcelona career.

Messi became arguably the greatest footballer of all time at Camp Nou, scoring 672 times in 778 appearances, but his prolific spell came to an end after Barca's dire financial situation forced the club's hand.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner had been a free agent since July 1, though the expectation was for him to sign a new contract at the Catalan club.

However, last Thursday's announcement he would not re-sign with Barca due to "financial and structural obstacles" prompted PSG to move quickly.

The 34-year-old was said to be a target a year ago when he stated his desire to leave, but ended up staying and playing out the final year of his contract.

Having teased the signing throughout the day on social media, PSG finally confirmed it with a video that included footage of their new recruit standing in the centre circle of the Parc des Princes. 

He will wear the number 30 shirt and while PSG confirmed the initial contract length, it is widely reported there is an option in place for a further year.

Messi will be reunited with former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, who joined PSG in a world-record deal in 2017, and link-up with Kylian Mbappe, with that trio set to form a devastating forward line.

Mbappe's future is in doubt with the France star having only one year left on his contract, though there has been talk that Messi's signing could convince him to agree new terms with PSG.

During his time at Barcelona, Messi claimed four Champions League triumphs alongside 10 LaLiga titles.

The forward finally won a senior international trophy in July, firing in four goals and adding five assists to secure Argentina's first Copa America success since 1993.

Messi's acquisition marks the culmination of a transfer window that has seen PSG add significantly to their squad, signing Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi after missing out on the Ligue 1 title and losing in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

One of the best teams in Europe just got better – Lionel Messi has signed for Paris Saint-Germain.

Following his shock exit from Barcelona as a free agent, Messi becomes the Ligue 1 giants' fifth signing of the transfer window, joining the superstars Mauricio Pochettino already had at his disposal.

After coming so close in recent seasons, PSG will hope this move can bring an end to their wait for a first Champions League triumph.

But how will all these players fit in the same XI? Stats Perform attempts to work that out...

 

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Keylor Navas has been one of Europe's outstanding goalkeepers in recent seasons, ranking third for goals prevented (8.1, using expected goals on target data) in the top five leagues in 2020-21. But Donnarumma – the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020 – did not leave boyhood club Milan just to sit on the bench and, at 22, represents the long-term option.

RB: Achraf Hakimi

Alessandro Florenzi headed back to Roma at the end of his loan, but PSG identified just about the best replacement on the market. Over the previous two seasons, Robin Gosens (34) was the only defender with more goal involvements than Hakimi (30).

CB: Marquinhos

PSG won 72.5 per cent of the games Marquinhos played last season in all competitions, conceding 0.7 goals on average. Those numbers altered significantly in his absence, with a winning percentage of 52.9 while shipping 1.1 goals per game. Even with the club's superstar signings, their captain remains one of the key men.

CB: Sergio Ramos

Ramos, another freebie, may no longer be able to play every game – he appeared only 15 times in LaLiga for Real Madrid last term – but PSG better hope he is there for the big ones. Over the previous three seasons, Madrid won 10 of the 15 Champions League games Ramos featured in and only four of the 13 he missed.

LB: Abdou Diallo

This is perhaps the one position on the pitch where PSG lack a genuine world-class option. Even if Pochettino were to bring in Presnel Kimpembe as a third centre-back, there is no outstanding left-sided wing-back. Diallo, a defensive full-back in an attacking team, gets the nod by virtue of starting the season fit and ahead of Layvin Kurzawa in the pecking order.

CM: Marco Verratti

At the end of a season in which Verratti was restricted to only 16 Ligue 1 starts, Euro 2020 provided a reminder of his talents. The Italy midfielder created a tournament-leading 14 chances across just five games while still completing 93.1 per cent of his 417 passes. Now imagine those passes are being played to Messi...

CM: Leandro Paredes

Paredes, Messi's international colleague, also made just 16 league starts for PSG last term, but he was still trusted for the big occasions in the Champions League. That included a dominant display against a Barca midfield of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, as Paredes played the second most passes on the pitch (73) and assisted one of four PSG goals.

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum

Angel Di Maria is very unfortunate to miss out on this XI and undoubtedly still has a part to play, but Wijnaldum perhaps offers a better balance in a midfield three with the attacking talent ahead of him. Across his Liverpool Premier League career, Wijnaldum led all Reds midfielders in recoveries (951) and duels won (645) and ranked second in interceptions (115) and third in tackles (181).

RW: Lionel Messi

Of course, Messi can play across the front three, but starting from the right – with Hakimi in the Dani Alves role outside him – will bring back memories of Barca teams of old. It is the role he occupied in 2014-15, forming part of perhaps the Blaugrana's most exciting attacking trio.

CF: Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe has the Luis Suarez role, providing the direct runs in behind that create space in front of the defence for Messi and Co. Last season's 53 goal involvements did not quite match the forward's career high of 54 in 2018-19, but Mbappe can expect to break all sorts of records in this thrillingly creative line-up this term.

LW: Neymar

Still the world's most expensive player if no longer the biggest name in his own dressing room, Neymar was the third member of that 2014-15 front three. Having decided to step out of Messi's shadow, the Brazil superstar wanted his old friend back. During their four years together at Barca, Neymar assisted Messi 22 times, while the six-time Ballon d'Or winner returned the favour on 20 occasions.

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