Paris St.-Germain, the French soccer powerhouse bankrolled by the state of Qatar, has agreed to sign Lionel Messi, the Argentine star who is one of the best players of his or any generation.
The agreement, for two seasons plus an option year, comes days after Messi bid a tearful farewell to F.C. Barcelona, the club where he had spent his entire professional career. It concluded a brief and exclusive bidding war for Messi and added unmatched star power to the roster of P.S.G., a superteam that has become a fixture in the late stages of Europe’s Champions League, the world’s richest soccer competition.
At the same time, Messi’s move reaffirmed the severity of the financial crisis at his former club, Barcelona, and highlighted how Gulf riches have so altered modern soccer’s economics that even some of the world’s biggest, richest and best-supported clubs are now no match for state-sponsored teams in the arms race to acquire the most elite players.
Messi’s signing was confirmed on Tuesday by a team official with knowledge of the agreement. It was announced, at once cryptically and unquestionably, by the club in a set of video clips posted to its social media accounts.
Messi, too, made clear his intent by flying from Barcelona to Paris-Le Bourget Airport on Tuesday afternoon. There, he emerged to wave to the fans who had gathered to welcome him while wearing a shirt with the P.S.G. slogan “Ici C’est Paris.”
P.S.G. called a news conference for Wednesday morning to introduce Messi. His new contract is for two years plus a third option year, according to the official. It will pay him about $35 million a season, an enormous sum, but much less than he was earning at Barcelona.
That was part of the reason, almost from the moment Barcelona announced last week that financial obstacles meant the club and Messi would not be able to continue their trophy-laden, two-decade association, that his next destination was in many ways a question of which of two Gulf-royalty-backed teams he would choose.
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SOURCE: The New York Times, Tariq Panja