NEW DELHI, June 1: Argentina superstar Lionel Messi will conclude his tenure at Paris St Germain (PSG) after playing his final game for the club against Clermont on Saturday, coach Christophe Galtier said on Thursday.
“I had the privilege of coaching the best player in the history of football. This will be his last match at the Parc des Princes, and I hope that he will receive the warmest of welcomes,” Galtier told reporters in Paris on Thursday.
Having achieved an impressive record of 21 goals and 20 assists for PSG across all competitions this season, Messi’s transition to the French capital from Barcelona in 2021, under a two-year contract, has been noteworthy.
“This year, he has been an important part of the team, always available. I don’t think any of the comments or criticisms are justified,” Galtier said.
“He’s always been there for the team. It’s been a great privilege to accompany him throughout the season.”
The 35-year-old, who led Argentina to the World Cup title in Qatar and also boasts a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, won the Ligue 1 title in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons with PSG as well as the French Super Cup in July 2022.
As of late, there has been considerable speculation surrounding Messi’s future at PSG. A source close to the Argentina captain disclosed to Reuters that he had received a formal offer to join Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal for the upcoming season.
Messi has also been linked in the media with a move back to boyhood club Barcelona, with the United States’ Major League Soccer club Inter Miami also being touted as a possible destination.
This development has added an intriguing twist to Messi’s professional trajectory, leaving fans and pundits eagerly awaiting his decision.
PSG’S TITLE CELEBRATIONS ON HOLD
Messi’s last game for PSG is unlikely to be a joyous affair, with Galtier saying that their title celebrations would be put on ice with the distraught squad’s thoughts occupied with concern for goalkeeper Sergio Rico.
Rico was involved in a riding accident while participating in an annual pilgrimage in southern Spain, the day after PSG wrapped up the title with one game to spare after a 1-1 draw at Racing Strasbourg.
Rico has been in intensive care after suffering “a serious mishap due to a mule cart and a horse that hit him”, his family said in a statement late on Sunday. Spanish paper Marca reported that Rico had been riding a horse himself.
“There will be no celebrations, it’s been a very difficult week. We’re all affected because we went from winning the French title on Saturday to waking up in more than a little pain on Sunday morning,” Galtier told reporters ahead of PSG’s final league game of the season.
“We’re all affected, and we’re trying as best we can to take our minds off things through the training sessions… We’re very united in sending out lots of positive vibes and energy to Sergio, his mum, his wife and his loved ones.”
(ToI With Reuters inputs)