Falling out of love? Messi whistled by PSG fans, again

AP , Monday 3 Apr 2023

The relationship between Lionel Messi and PSG fans is not getting better. It's actually turning bitter.

Paris Saint-Germain
Paris Saint-Germain s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures next to Lyon s French midfielder Corentin Tolisso (L) during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Olympique Lyonnais (OL) at The Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on April 2, 2023. AFP


Less than a week after he scored a hat-trick and surpassed 100 career goals for Argentina, the world champion was whistled by sections of supporters before and during PSG's 1-0 home loss to Lyon on Sunday amid persistent rumors he could leave the club soon.

The former Barcelona star, who is out of contract at the end of the season, did not look better than the rest of his teammates at the Parc des Princes. He was involved in a few good moves, but also lost the ball 26 times as the French league leaders suffered a second straight defeat without scoring.

PSG has lost eight of its 18 games in all competitions in 2023. It's the most defeats after 18 games in a calendar year since Qatari owners took over the club more than a decade ago with the ambition of making it one of the most successful in Europe.

Despite the hundreds of millions of euros invested, the project has failed so far. PSG is still desperately looking for the Champions League trophy it craves after exiting Europe's top tournament against Bayern Munich in the round of 16. And now it's in danger of losing its domestic supremacy.

The loss to Lyon followed a 2-0 defeat against Rennes before the international break. The back-to-back setbacks have seen PSG’s lead over Lens and Marseille cut to six points, with nine matches left to play.

“This is our eighth defeat in 2023, it’s way too many,” said PSG coach Christophe Galtier.

Messi, who joined PSG in August 2021, has been embodying the team's shortcomings in spite of pretty good statistics. After struggling to adapt to the French league — the seven-time Golden Ball player scored only six league goals in his first 26 games — Messi has improved this season as he developed an efficient understanding with star forward Kylian Mbappe.

In 24 league matches, the 35-year-old Messi has scored 13 goals and delivered as many assists.

But his output has left PSG fans unimpressed and Sunday's jeers at the Parc des Princes were not the first to hit Messi.

Messi's name had already been booed by sections of fans ahead of the loss to Rennes last month after some supporters took aim at him following PSG's elimination to Real Madrid last season.

Galtier said Messi should not be treated this way or made a scapegoat.

“Leo Messi tried very hard,” he said on Sunday. “There were some technical mistakes in his linkup play, but I think the whistles are hard to listen to because Leo Messi gives so much. It is also down to his teammates in terms of doing more to create more danger in the opposition penalty box.”

In that context of falling out of love, combined with PSG's poor results, the possibility of seeing Messi leave is growing by the day. Even more since Barcelona vice-president Rafael Yuste said last week the club is in contact with its former golden child.

“Leo and his family know the affection I have for them,” Yuste was quoted as saying. "Messi knows how much we appreciate him. I would love for him to come back.”

Messi arrived at Barcelona at age 13 and left having won 35 titles. He helped the club win the Champions League four times, the Spanish league 10 times, the Copa del Rey seven times and the Spanish Super Cup eight times. Messi is also the team’s all-time scorer with 672 goals in 778 appearances, and the top scorer in the Spanish league with 474 goals in 520 matches.

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