The seismic impact of six-time Ballon d’Or-winning superstar Lionel Messi joining PSG is already being felt, with the Argentina icon beefing up the club’s social media following – as “embarrassing” reporters chanted his name.
The Messi clan landed in Paris on Tuesday afternoon after finally leaving their mansion in Barcelona’s western suburbs amid invasive round-the-clock media coverage.
Before the 34-year-old had the chance to take his medical, the club made his signing official through a teasing Twitter post that racked up more than 25 million views plus, exceeding 900,000 likes and counting.
Over on Instagram, Messi’s arrival has seen the Ligue 1 giants’ count reach more than 43 million followers – a rise of around 5.65 million in the week to August 11, according to figures seen by Newsweek.
L’Equipe offered a more modest assessment, with a social network analyst telling the French oracular that Messi’s arrival had added around 1.2 million followers to PSG’s combined Twitter and Facebook following across three days.
Messi himself has more than 247 million followers. As one account put it: “Leo Messi is bigger than the club.”
Parody account footballfunnys somewhat fancifully claimed that PSG had gained more than 20 million followers in the 24 hours since he signed, although the eager club marketing team might hope to enjoy those kind of figures by the time Messi has ended his spell with them.
Following photos and video footage that emerged of him performing kick-ups on the Parc des Princes pitch in his new number 30 kit last night, Messi was officially unveiled at a press conference on Wednesday morning.
Before it could get underway, as he sat next to the club’s president, Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, journalists led a chant of “Messi! Messi! Messi!”, and were branded “embarrassing” by some of their contemporaries online.
At the event itself, Messi revealed that he joined his new employers on an initial two-year deal to win the Champions League.
“I think this team is already done and ready. There are some new transfers but they have been very close and they are ready,” he said, of the club’s past failures when they lost in the final to Bayern Munich last year and to Manchester City in the semi-finals last season.
“I just came here to help – I’ll give my best. My goal and my dream is to win this trophy again and I think that Paris is the best place to have a chance to win it again.
“It’s not easy. Sometimes you can have the best team in the world and you don’t win the Champions League – this is football.
“Paris has been so close to a victory in the Champions League. In the best competition, the best teams are playing – it’s very difficult to win it.
“You need a very united squad. This dressing room is very united but you also need the luck.”
“It’s a very special competition and that’s why it’s so beautiful and so important – we all want to win this competition.”
While Messi was being adored by thousands of gathered fans, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez released a statement denying that he had anything to do with the player’s exit from bitter rivals FC Barcelona.
Jaume Llopis, a former member of the Espai Barça commission overseeing Barca’s new stadium plans, resigned amid the debacle over the weekend, claimed that the club he has been a member of for 66 years “didn’t do everything that could have been done” to keep Messi.
“The whys and wherefores of the operation were poorly handled,” Llopis alleged.
“You could detect the frostiness between the player and the president [Joan Laporta]. We were not told the truth; we would like to know what is going on between Florentino Perez and Laporta.
Barcelona director who resigned over Messi departure fires shots at Joan Laporta: “I don’t understand how while Barcelona fans were crying over Leo’s departure, Laporta went for a seafood dinner with the president of Real Madrid.”
— Richard Martin (@Rich9908) August 9, 2021
“The [proposed European] Super League is an interesting project but there is a little [bit] of uncertainty about it. I don’t know what he [Laporta] is trying to do with all of this chumminess with Real Madrid’s president.
“Nobody can understand that while Barcelonistas are crying about Leo leaving, Laporta is enjoying a fish supper with Real Madrid’s president. That doesn’t paint a very good image.”
Llopis also said: “Messi’s departure is a maneuver that favors Florentino. Imagine that now [PSG striker Kylian] Mbappe ends up at Real Madrid.”
Florentino Perez: “It is impossible for me to have had any influence here, neither in Messi’s departure nor in any other decision of FC Barcelona” #FCB
— Reshad Rahman (@ReshadRahman_) August 11, 2021
Defending himself, Perez, who visited Barcelona this weekend to meet with Laporta and their Super League cohort Andrea Agnelli – in town as Juventus chairman before Barca beat them 3-0 in the Joan Gamper Trophy – has released his own correspondence.
“In light of the statements made by Jaume Llopis, a former member of the Espai Barça Commission, I would like to state the following,” he announced.
“It is flatly false that I have been friends for a long time with the CEO of FC Barcelona, Ferran Reverter, since he is a person with whom I have met only twice in my life – once four months ago and the other last Saturday at the meeting that took place in Barcelona with president Joan Laporta and president Andrea Agnelli, when the official communication about Messi leaving had already taken place.”
“Therefore, it is impossible for me to have had any influence either on Messi’s departure or on any other FC Barcelona decision.
“So I hope that Jaume Llopis rectifies these statements that do not correspond to the truth as soon as possible.”
That said, there are still many who believe Perez and Laporta are not keen on La Liga’s proposed new buy-in from private equity firm the CVC as it would close the lid on the European Super League project permanently.
While Laporta is accused of choosing the breakaway project over Messi, Perez’s outfit have launched legal action against the Spanish top flight regarding the matter.
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