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Ici c'est Paris

The arrival of Lionel Messi has rocketed an already star-studded Paris Saint-Germain team into the next galaxy. But it’s a development that should come as no surprise: this, after all, is a club that has had glamour and prestige at its core since day one

WORDS Ian Holyman | ILLUSTRATION Cameron Gibson

Insight
Paris, la Ville Lumière, the city of light. And love, of course. And now? The city of Leo. When the Argentine genius left Barcelona after linear progress from La Masia prodigy to planetary superstar, the French capital – and its ambitious flagship club, Paris Saint-Germain – were the obvious choice, n’est-ce pas? Especially when the plan is to add a fifth Champions League to your trove of trophies – and help your new team to its first.

“That’s everyone’s dream here; the club has been working towards that for some years now and has got closer to it recently,” Messi told France Football, referencing Paris’s final and semi-final appearances in the past two seasons. “From a personal point of view, it’s the same. I would really like to win the Champions League again, as I said when I was still in Barcelona. It’s a great competition, very difficult to win, but I think this group of players has the qualities to win it.”

At his official presentation in mid-August, he told PSG TV: “I hope to be able to help and contribute everything I can to achieve this objective. It would be exceptional for the club, for me, for the fans. I hope we’ll do it step by step – start calmly but keeping in mind it’s the objective for everyone.”

Start calmly? There’s a thought. The one thing that Paris was not in the days leading up to Messi’s arrival was calm. August is generally the most peaceful month of the year here, with most Parisians escaping the effervescence of the city at one of France’s many coastal resorts. In fact, if you ever want a parking space in the city, this would be your moment.

But when genius comes to town, all bets are off. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Secrets travel fast in Paris.” True – though the French emperor had no inkling of how social media could ramp up the pace. Facts were heavily outweighed by fantasy and frenzy as fans camped out – literally camped out – at Paris’s Le Bourget airport with Messi inbound.

In fact there were people in five different venues waiting to see him. And knowing he was going to be presented at the Parc des Princes at 11am, they got there early. The club were showing their pre-press conference show on the big screen and then the atmosphere really picked up about an hour before Messi arrived; there was a lot of noise. There were no such scenes when David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Neymar joined.

There was the feeling this was big not only for Paris but for French football. In L’Équipe’s case it was 1.7m big, as France’s main sports paper produced a lifesize figure of the Argentina international, with the enticement to ‘Get yourself photographed with Messi.’ It’s quite possible that a number of Ligue 1 opponents did just that, as it may prove to be the closest they get to him all season. “It’s very good for Ligue 1, which moves up several levels thanks to him,” said Messi’s former Barça team-mate – and now Ligue 1 opponent – Cesc Fàbregas of Monaco.

Being bedazzled by a regular stream of footballing superstardom has been the lot of Paris Saint-Germain fans since the 2011 takeover of the club by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI). But though the current side is undoubtedly the most spectacular ever assembled, Paris have always been ready to sprinkle some of the stardust, glitz and glamour usually associated with the city’s catwalks.
Paris have always sprinkled the stardust, glitz and glamour usually Associated with the City’s Catwalks

Upon the club’s foundation in 1970, France captain Jean Djorkaeff – father of future Paris star, World Cup winner and EURO champion Youri – was brought in as they started out in the second division. That iconic shirt with the red stripe down the middle was the idea of fashion designer and club president Daniel Hechter, inspired by the racing stripe of a Ford Mustang he had seen on the Champs-Élysées. If that doesn’t give Paris a little je ne sais quoi, what does?

“There are lots of parallels between when the club was founded and how it is now,” explains Julien Froment, author of The Incredible Story of the Birth of PSG. “The club wants to be popular, close to its fans, but it also wants to be bling-bling. They have always understood that you have to get stars to get people to talk about you.”

With no Parisian side in the top division of French football in the late 1960s, and the Parc des Princes set for costly renovations that would make it the second-biggest stadium in Europe, the French Football Federation, L’Équipe  and radio station Europe 1 set about trying to form a club worthy of one of the world’s great capital cities. A vote was held to find an appropriate name; Paris Football Club was chosen over Inter de Paris and Racing Club de Paris. They eventually merged with renowned amateur outfit Stade Saint-Germain, based in the cosy Parisian suburb (and former royal town) of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The fleur-de-lis on the club’s badge is the symbol of the French monarchy and makes reference to its regal origins.

In June 1971, a year after its foundation, Paris then thought they were about to sign footballing royalty in the shape of Pelé (yes, the Pelé). The move didn’t come off, but in the intervening 50 years Paris have recruited stars such as Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha, David Ginola, George Weah and Nicolas Anelka; they also gave Ronaldinho his first opportunity in European football. All this before Messi came along.

“I was very impressed by Weah and Ginola the first time I trained with them,” said Paris-born Didier Domi, speaking to Le Beau Jeu podcast about when he broke into the first team in the mid-1990s. “They were quite big, had charisma, but they were so kind with the young players; you could fit in very quickly. At the same time, they were so dominant. You could feel it in training. There was an atmosphere of winning; they weren’t on the pitch to mess around. There was competition day after day. You understood why it was such a bright time for PSG.”

In a golden decade, Paris became the second French club to claim a European trophy (after 1993 Champions League winners Marseille) when they lifted the 1996 Cup Winners’ Cup. Domi helped them reach the final against a powerful Barcelona side the following year too, part of a run of five successive seasons in which they reached at least the semi-finals of a European competition.

So when Ibrahimović boldly declared – does he ever do otherwise? – that, “With all due respect for what went before at PSG, I think the club was born the day the Qataris arrived,” he was not entirely correct. But the Swedish superstar’s signing in the summer of 2012 – along with Thiago Silva – did upgrade Paris’s ambition and stature. Ibrahimović’s request for “no foam” atop his coffee was not his only demand from club staff, as he and the other ultra-professional, high-calibre reinforcements provoked a radical overhaul, notably at the club’s Camp des Loges training facility.

Paris’s image was given a further polish with Messi’s arrival, while the state-of-the-art training centre set to open for 2022/23 will further enhance its standing among the continental elite – as well as at home, where the club competes with the myriad distractions of its city. What would put Parisians’ focus squarely on football would be a Champions League final win, even if the arrival of footballing royalty is already proving an attraction. “Paris isn’t just football: there’s the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower,” explains Froment. “There are lots of things to do, but while you didn’t see so many PSG shirts before, you’re starting to see more now. Lots of foreigners come to Paris and now they also visit the Parc. Before it was to see Neymar, now it’s for Messi.”

An underwhelming Matchday 1 draw in Bruges, when the potentially potent MNM attacking trident of Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé was employed for the first time, failed to answer questions about whether the sum of their talents will add up to its promise. However, coach Mauricio Pochettino is unperturbed.

“It’s definitely a huge challenge – that’s the biggest challenge, right?” says the former Tottenham manager, himself a former Paris player. “But what we always say, even if it sounds a cliché, is that one needs to act naturally with the players – beyond their names, the importance they may have in the media. That is why I see it as a very beautiful challenge, to put all that talent at the service of the team so that we can become a strong team, a frightening team as everyone thinks.”

And it’s not all about MNM, with Pochettino piecing together a Parisian puzzle that now includes Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma. They were all drafted in alongside Messi during a bountiful summer, with a view to taking the club to the prize that they have come within touching distance of over the past two campaigns.

The Matchday 2 defeat of Manchester City, featuring a sublime first Paris goal for Messi teed up by an Mbappé flick, suggested those pieces are starting to fall into place. It was described as “amazing” by Pochettino and “fantastic” by City boss Pep Guardiola, Messi’s former Barça mentor. They are both adjectives that will no doubt be used frequently over the course of this campaign to describe the exploits of the club’s new No30.

“An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris,” reckoned German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The French capital, an inspiration to so many standout performers across the cultural spectrum, now has another maestro in its midst.

Insight
Poch on: The new boys

Coach Mauricio Pochettino talks Graham Hunter through those new signings

Achraf Hakimi

“He has a great capacity to run and his physical potential is huge. He is undergoing a process: he makes a lot of contributions in attack and he also has the intelligence to become a complete player on a defensive level.”

Georginio Wijnaldum

“He’s been captain of the Netherlands, he won everything at Liverpool but he still has a lot of football left to play. He can play in several positions but without losing his competitiveness; he has a deep understanding of the game and a great level in terms of technique and his body.”

Gianluigi Donnarumma

“Well this is an easy one, right? We have already seen him win EURO 2020 with Italy and be the player of the tournament. His profile as a goalkeeper and his age make him one of the best in the world.”

Sergio Ramos

“A player who can convey his experience, his competitiveness. He has also won everything and it’s interesting having him at the club for all that he can share with his team-mates – all that experience he gained at Real Madrid.”

Lionel Messi

“I might not be the most appropriate person to describe him – there are people who have a wider vocabulary to describe Leo closer to the reality he deserves, one of the greatest players in this sport. Since he arrived he has adapted very quickly and been training very well, trying to achieve his highest level as soon as possible to compete at his best.”

“That’s everyone’s dream here; the club has been working towards that for some years now and has got closer to it recently,” Messi told France Football, referencing Paris’s final and semi-final appearances in the past two seasons. “From a personal point of view, it’s the same. I would really like to win the Champions League again, as I said when I was still in Barcelona. It’s a great competition, very difficult to win, but I think this group of players has the qualities to win it.”

At his official presentation in mid-August, he told PSG TV: “I hope to be able to help and contribute everything I can to achieve this objective. It would be exceptional for the club, for me, for the fans. I hope we’ll do it step by step – start calmly but keeping in mind it’s the objective for everyone.”

Start calmly? There’s a thought. The one thing that Paris was not in the days leading up to Messi’s arrival was calm. August is generally the most peaceful month of the year here, with most Parisians escaping the effervescence of the city at one of France’s many coastal resorts. In fact, if you ever want a parking space in the city, this would be your moment.

But when genius comes to town, all bets are off. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Secrets travel fast in Paris.” True – though the French emperor had no inkling of how social media could ramp up the pace. Facts were heavily outweighed by fantasy and frenzy as fans camped out – literally camped out – at Paris’s Le Bourget airport with Messi inbound.

In fact there were people in five different venues waiting to see him. And knowing he was going to be presented at the Parc des Princes at 11am, they got there early. The club were showing their pre-press conference show on the big screen and then the atmosphere really picked up about an hour before Messi arrived; there was a lot of noise. There were no such scenes when David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Neymar joined.

There was the feeling this was big not only for Paris but for French football. In L’Équipe’s case it was 1.7m big, as France’s main sports paper produced a lifesize figure of the Argentina international, with the enticement to ‘Get yourself photographed with Messi.’ It’s quite possible that a number of Ligue 1 opponents did just that, as it may prove to be the closest they get to him all season. “It’s very good for Ligue 1, which moves up several levels thanks to him,” said Messi’s former Barça team-mate – and now Ligue 1 opponent – Cesc Fàbregas of Monaco.

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Being bedazzled by a regular stream of footballing superstardom has been the lot of Paris Saint-Germain fans since the 2011 takeover of the club by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI). But though the current side is undoubtedly the most spectacular ever assembled, Paris have always been ready to sprinkle some of the stardust, glitz and glamour usually associated with the city’s catwalks.
Paris have always sprinkled the stardust, glitz and glamour usually Associated with the City’s Catwalks

Upon the club’s foundation in 1970, France captain Jean Djorkaeff – father of future Paris star, World Cup winner and EURO champion Youri – was brought in as they started out in the second division. That iconic shirt with the red stripe down the middle was the idea of fashion designer and club president Daniel Hechter, inspired by the racing stripe of a Ford Mustang he had seen on the Champs-Élysées. If that doesn’t give Paris a little je ne sais quoi, what does?

“There are lots of parallels between when the club was founded and how it is now,” explains Julien Froment, author of The Incredible Story of the Birth of PSG. “The club wants to be popular, close to its fans, but it also wants to be bling-bling. They have always understood that you have to get stars to get people to talk about you.”

With no Parisian side in the top division of French football in the late 1960s, and the Parc des Princes set for costly renovations that would make it the second-biggest stadium in Europe, the French Football Federation, L’Équipe  and radio station Europe 1 set about trying to form a club worthy of one of the world’s great capital cities. A vote was held to find an appropriate name; Paris Football Club was chosen over Inter de Paris and Racing Club de Paris. They eventually merged with renowned amateur outfit Stade Saint-Germain, based in the cosy Parisian suburb (and former royal town) of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The fleur-de-lis on the club’s badge is the symbol of the French monarchy and makes reference to its regal origins.

In June 1971, a year after its foundation, Paris then thought they were about to sign footballing royalty in the shape of Pelé (yes, the Pelé). The move didn’t come off, but in the intervening 50 years Paris have recruited stars such as Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha, David Ginola, George Weah and Nicolas Anelka; they also gave Ronaldinho his first opportunity in European football. All this before Messi came along.

“I was very impressed by Weah and Ginola the first time I trained with them,” said Paris-born Didier Domi, speaking to Le Beau Jeu podcast about when he broke into the first team in the mid-1990s. “They were quite big, had charisma, but they were so kind with the young players; you could fit in very quickly. At the same time, they were so dominant. You could feel it in training. There was an atmosphere of winning; they weren’t on the pitch to mess around. There was competition day after day. You understood why it was such a bright time for PSG.”

In a golden decade, Paris became the second French club to claim a European trophy (after 1993 Champions League winners Marseille) when they lifted the 1996 Cup Winners’ Cup. Domi helped them reach the final against a powerful Barcelona side the following year too, part of a run of five successive seasons in which they reached at least the semi-finals of a European competition.

So when Ibrahimović boldly declared – does he ever do otherwise? – that, “With all due respect for what went before at PSG, I think the club was born the day the Qataris arrived,” he was not entirely correct. But the Swedish superstar’s signing in the summer of 2012 – along with Thiago Silva – did upgrade Paris’s ambition and stature. Ibrahimović’s request for “no foam” atop his coffee was not his only demand from club staff, as he and the other ultra-professional, high-calibre reinforcements provoked a radical overhaul, notably at the club’s Camp des Loges training facility.

Paris’s image was given a further polish with Messi’s arrival, while the state-of-the-art training centre set to open for 2022/23 will further enhance its standing among the continental elite – as well as at home, where the club competes with the myriad distractions of its city. What would put Parisians’ focus squarely on football would be a Champions League final win, even if the arrival of footballing royalty is already proving an attraction. “Paris isn’t just football: there’s the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower,” explains Froment. “There are lots of things to do, but while you didn’t see so many PSG shirts before, you’re starting to see more now. Lots of foreigners come to Paris and now they also visit the Parc. Before it was to see Neymar, now it’s for Messi.”

An underwhelming Matchday 1 draw in Bruges, when the potentially potent MNM attacking trident of Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé was employed for the first time, failed to answer questions about whether the sum of their talents will add up to its promise. However, coach Mauricio Pochettino is unperturbed.

“It’s definitely a huge challenge – that’s the biggest challenge, right?” says the former Tottenham manager, himself a former Paris player. “But what we always say, even if it sounds a cliché, is that one needs to act naturally with the players – beyond their names, the importance they may have in the media. That is why I see it as a very beautiful challenge, to put all that talent at the service of the team so that we can become a strong team, a frightening team as everyone thinks.”

And it’s not all about MNM, with Pochettino piecing together a Parisian puzzle that now includes Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma. They were all drafted in alongside Messi during a bountiful summer, with a view to taking the club to the prize that they have come within touching distance of over the past two campaigns.

The Matchday 2 defeat of Manchester City, featuring a sublime first Paris goal for Messi teed up by an Mbappé flick, suggested those pieces are starting to fall into place. It was described as “amazing” by Pochettino and “fantastic” by City boss Pep Guardiola, Messi’s former Barça mentor. They are both adjectives that will no doubt be used frequently over the course of this campaign to describe the exploits of the club’s new No30.

“An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris,” reckoned German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The French capital, an inspiration to so many standout performers across the cultural spectrum, now has another maestro in its midst.

Insight
Poch on: The new boys

Coach Mauricio Pochettino talks Graham Hunter through those new signings

Achraf Hakimi

“He has a great capacity to run and his physical potential is huge. He is undergoing a process: he makes a lot of contributions in attack and he also has the intelligence to become a complete player on a defensive level.”

Georginio Wijnaldum

“He’s been captain of the Netherlands, he won everything at Liverpool but he still has a lot of football left to play. He can play in several positions but without losing his competitiveness; he has a deep understanding of the game and a great level in terms of technique and his body.”

Gianluigi Donnarumma

“Well this is an easy one, right? We have already seen him win EURO 2020 with Italy and be the player of the tournament. His profile as a goalkeeper and his age make him one of the best in the world.”

Sergio Ramos

“A player who can convey his experience, his competitiveness. He has also won everything and it’s interesting having him at the club for all that he can share with his team-mates – all that experience he gained at Real Madrid.”

Lionel Messi

“I might not be the most appropriate person to describe him – there are people who have a wider vocabulary to describe Leo closer to the reality he deserves, one of the greatest players in this sport. Since he arrived he has adapted very quickly and been training very well, trying to achieve his highest level as soon as possible to compete at his best.”

“That’s everyone’s dream here; the club has been working towards that for some years now and has got closer to it recently,” Messi told France Football, referencing Paris’s final and semi-final appearances in the past two seasons. “From a personal point of view, it’s the same. I would really like to win the Champions League again, as I said when I was still in Barcelona. It’s a great competition, very difficult to win, but I think this group of players has the qualities to win it.”

At his official presentation in mid-August, he told PSG TV: “I hope to be able to help and contribute everything I can to achieve this objective. It would be exceptional for the club, for me, for the fans. I hope we’ll do it step by step – start calmly but keeping in mind it’s the objective for everyone.”

Start calmly? There’s a thought. The one thing that Paris was not in the days leading up to Messi’s arrival was calm. August is generally the most peaceful month of the year here, with most Parisians escaping the effervescence of the city at one of France’s many coastal resorts. In fact, if you ever want a parking space in the city, this would be your moment.

But when genius comes to town, all bets are off. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Secrets travel fast in Paris.” True – though the French emperor had no inkling of how social media could ramp up the pace. Facts were heavily outweighed by fantasy and frenzy as fans camped out – literally camped out – at Paris’s Le Bourget airport with Messi inbound.

In fact there were people in five different venues waiting to see him. And knowing he was going to be presented at the Parc des Princes at 11am, they got there early. The club were showing their pre-press conference show on the big screen and then the atmosphere really picked up about an hour before Messi arrived; there was a lot of noise. There were no such scenes when David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Neymar joined.

There was the feeling this was big not only for Paris but for French football. In L’Équipe’s case it was 1.7m big, as France’s main sports paper produced a lifesize figure of the Argentina international, with the enticement to ‘Get yourself photographed with Messi.’ It’s quite possible that a number of Ligue 1 opponents did just that, as it may prove to be the closest they get to him all season. “It’s very good for Ligue 1, which moves up several levels thanks to him,” said Messi’s former Barça team-mate – and now Ligue 1 opponent – Cesc Fàbregas of Monaco.

Being bedazzled by a regular stream of footballing superstardom has been the lot of Paris Saint-Germain fans since the 2011 takeover of the club by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI). But though the current side is undoubtedly the most spectacular ever assembled, Paris have always been ready to sprinkle some of the stardust, glitz and glamour usually associated with the city’s catwalks.
Paris have always sprinkled the stardust, glitz and glamour usually Associated with the City’s Catwalks

Upon the club’s foundation in 1970, France captain Jean Djorkaeff – father of future Paris star, World Cup winner and EURO champion Youri – was brought in as they started out in the second division. That iconic shirt with the red stripe down the middle was the idea of fashion designer and club president Daniel Hechter, inspired by the racing stripe of a Ford Mustang he had seen on the Champs-Élysées. If that doesn’t give Paris a little je ne sais quoi, what does?

“There are lots of parallels between when the club was founded and how it is now,” explains Julien Froment, author of The Incredible Story of the Birth of PSG. “The club wants to be popular, close to its fans, but it also wants to be bling-bling. They have always understood that you have to get stars to get people to talk about you.”

With no Parisian side in the top division of French football in the late 1960s, and the Parc des Princes set for costly renovations that would make it the second-biggest stadium in Europe, the French Football Federation, L’Équipe  and radio station Europe 1 set about trying to form a club worthy of one of the world’s great capital cities. A vote was held to find an appropriate name; Paris Football Club was chosen over Inter de Paris and Racing Club de Paris. They eventually merged with renowned amateur outfit Stade Saint-Germain, based in the cosy Parisian suburb (and former royal town) of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The fleur-de-lis on the club’s badge is the symbol of the French monarchy and makes reference to its regal origins.

In June 1971, a year after its foundation, Paris then thought they were about to sign footballing royalty in the shape of Pelé (yes, the Pelé). The move didn’t come off, but in the intervening 50 years Paris have recruited stars such as Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha, David Ginola, George Weah and Nicolas Anelka; they also gave Ronaldinho his first opportunity in European football. All this before Messi came along.

“I was very impressed by Weah and Ginola the first time I trained with them,” said Paris-born Didier Domi, speaking to Le Beau Jeu podcast about when he broke into the first team in the mid-1990s. “They were quite big, had charisma, but they were so kind with the young players; you could fit in very quickly. At the same time, they were so dominant. You could feel it in training. There was an atmosphere of winning; they weren’t on the pitch to mess around. There was competition day after day. You understood why it was such a bright time for PSG.”

In a golden decade, Paris became the second French club to claim a European trophy (after 1993 Champions League winners Marseille) when they lifted the 1996 Cup Winners’ Cup. Domi helped them reach the final against a powerful Barcelona side the following year too, part of a run of five successive seasons in which they reached at least the semi-finals of a European competition.

So when Ibrahimović boldly declared – does he ever do otherwise? – that, “With all due respect for what went before at PSG, I think the club was born the day the Qataris arrived,” he was not entirely correct. But the Swedish superstar’s signing in the summer of 2012 – along with Thiago Silva – did upgrade Paris’s ambition and stature. Ibrahimović’s request for “no foam” atop his coffee was not his only demand from club staff, as he and the other ultra-professional, high-calibre reinforcements provoked a radical overhaul, notably at the club’s Camp des Loges training facility.

Paris’s image was given a further polish with Messi’s arrival, while the state-of-the-art training centre set to open for 2022/23 will further enhance its standing among the continental elite – as well as at home, where the club competes with the myriad distractions of its city. What would put Parisians’ focus squarely on football would be a Champions League final win, even if the arrival of footballing royalty is already proving an attraction. “Paris isn’t just football: there’s the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower,” explains Froment. “There are lots of things to do, but while you didn’t see so many PSG shirts before, you’re starting to see more now. Lots of foreigners come to Paris and now they also visit the Parc. Before it was to see Neymar, now it’s for Messi.”

An underwhelming Matchday 1 draw in Bruges, when the potentially potent MNM attacking trident of Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé was employed for the first time, failed to answer questions about whether the sum of their talents will add up to its promise. However, coach Mauricio Pochettino is unperturbed.

“It’s definitely a huge challenge – that’s the biggest challenge, right?” says the former Tottenham manager, himself a former Paris player. “But what we always say, even if it sounds a cliché, is that one needs to act naturally with the players – beyond their names, the importance they may have in the media. That is why I see it as a very beautiful challenge, to put all that talent at the service of the team so that we can become a strong team, a frightening team as everyone thinks.”

And it’s not all about MNM, with Pochettino piecing together a Parisian puzzle that now includes Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma. They were all drafted in alongside Messi during a bountiful summer, with a view to taking the club to the prize that they have come within touching distance of over the past two campaigns.

The Matchday 2 defeat of Manchester City, featuring a sublime first Paris goal for Messi teed up by an Mbappé flick, suggested those pieces are starting to fall into place. It was described as “amazing” by Pochettino and “fantastic” by City boss Pep Guardiola, Messi’s former Barça mentor. They are both adjectives that will no doubt be used frequently over the course of this campaign to describe the exploits of the club’s new No30.

“An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris,” reckoned German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The French capital, an inspiration to so many standout performers across the cultural spectrum, now has another maestro in its midst.

Insight
Poch on: The new boys

Coach Mauricio Pochettino talks Graham Hunter through those new signings

Achraf Hakimi

“He has a great capacity to run and his physical potential is huge. He is undergoing a process: he makes a lot of contributions in attack and he also has the intelligence to become a complete player on a defensive level.”

Georginio Wijnaldum

“He’s been captain of the Netherlands, he won everything at Liverpool but he still has a lot of football left to play. He can play in several positions but without losing his competitiveness; he has a deep understanding of the game and a great level in terms of technique and his body.”

Gianluigi Donnarumma

“Well this is an easy one, right? We have already seen him win EURO 2020 with Italy and be the player of the tournament. His profile as a goalkeeper and his age make him one of the best in the world.”

Sergio Ramos

“A player who can convey his experience, his competitiveness. He has also won everything and it’s interesting having him at the club for all that he can share with his team-mates – all that experience he gained at Real Madrid.”

Lionel Messi

“I might not be the most appropriate person to describe him – there are people who have a wider vocabulary to describe Leo closer to the reality he deserves, one of the greatest players in this sport. Since he arrived he has adapted very quickly and been training very well, trying to achieve his highest level as soon as possible to compete at his best.”

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