You never know, of course, but it’s unlikely that the Emir of Qatar will be on the 28th. In December, the television lingered in the middle of the night in Doha to watch Lionel Messi’s interview with Jordi Evola on La Sexta, like many of us. But the owner of Paris Saint-Germain will no doubt have heard what Argentina shared with the world in this long-awaited conversation.
Since taking over the French club in the summer of 2011, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has had only one dream: Cristiano Ronaldo or Messi to the Parc des Princes. He tried several times, but it never worked. However, he knows that Messi is very open this time and that the desire and determination to set up a plan to try and get him to Paris is very strong.
The Barcelona captain has not yet decided what he will do this summer. He will be able to leave Camp Nou for nothing, unlike last summer when he tried to force a move while still under contract. This time it will be different.
Will he end his 20-year love affair with the city and club that has given him everything? Some believe he definitely wants to leave because of the chaos at the club in recent years, poor results and a lack of direction. Others think that deep down he just wants to stay and finish his incredible career at Barcelona, and if he is convinced that the conditions for more success are right (new president, better team, Xavi is somehow involved…), then he will stay.
But if Messi leaves, can PSG really sign him this summer? Yes, of course. Likely or realistic? It’s not safe. The priority in Paris is to extend the contracts of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Both contracts expire in June 2022, and the new long-term deals for the two strikers mean you can continue to build a highly competitive team around them and offer them value if they want to leave in the future.
Error! The file name is not specified. Messi and Neymar last played together at Barcelona in 2017, but PSG are hoping to be the club that brings them together. JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images
Sources told ESPN that recent talks with both sides have been positive, and there is certainly a quiet confidence in the club that both extensions will sign. They want to stay, PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi said a month ago. Further talks are expected to take place later this month, according to sources. Now, with Mauricio Pochettino as manager, the club are hoping that there will be some clarity on the management of the club and that the Argentine will help Neymar and Mbappe decide on a future in Paris.
Even if two superstars wanted to leave and not renew, who could buy them this summer? Barcelona have no money for the Brazilian, while neither Real Madrid nor Liverpool seem to have a financial package for Mbappe. They have all been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and it would be very difficult for a club to spend a total of around €250 million (transfer fees, salaries, commissions) on the Mbappe.
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Suppose Neymar and Mbappe both stay in Paris. That’s where Messi’s secret comes in.
Whatever the position, from the club’s overall budget to salaries, ongoing sponsorship contracts, taxes, FFP rules, the loss of revenue due to the pandemic and the collapse of the Ligue 1 national television contract, it seems impossible for PSG to afford the three Neymar, Mbappe and Messi. As incredible as it seems, it’s very hard to see how they could have funded it.
According to ESPN sources, Neymar currently earns EUR 36.8 million per year (net). Mbappe for 11.3 million euro gross and Messi for 50 million euro net! This equates to over €100 million a year for them alone, and this is without taking into account the potential salary increases that Neymar and Mbappe (especially the Frenchman) could receive when or if they sign new contracts. It is possible that Messi will suffer a pay cut, but it will be a huge, perhaps even irresponsible amount.
This season, PSG’s wage bill is €337 million, making them the third largest in Europe after Barcelona and Real Madrid, with a total budget of €637.8 million. The club would have to significantly increase its revenues to sign Argentina without violating FFP rules. And no, the sale of hundreds of thousands of Messi’s PSG jerseys would not have covered that…. Get away from him!
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Let’s not forget that there are other positions on the team that need work. Angel Di Maria’s contract ends in June. He hasn’t been very good this season, but he will be very difficult to replace if he goes for free, given the high cost of replacing a veteran offensive player. The contract of Juan Bernat, who played very well at PSG, was also terminated in June and the club would also like to extend it, which would require a salary increase.
Pochettino also needs to make improvements in midfield. It will likely need new staff, especially with the departures of Julian Draxler, Idrissa Gueye and Leandro Paredes. Paris will need the resources to carry out this important groundwork between offense and defense.
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Despite the unrealistic scenario and the low chance of signing Messi, PSG will still try. They contacted Messi’s father last summer and are trying to come up with a plan. Those in the club’s power structure believe Pochettino’s appointment as manager is a big plus when it comes to negotiations. Everyone knows who the coach will be this summer, and PSG certainly see Poch as a big advantage (certainly more than Thomas Tuchel) in convincing Messi to come to the French capital rather than stay at Barcelona or meet Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
Of course, it won’t be an easy task, but the hardest part will of course be finding the money. This mission may prove impossible.