He did it a little late, but he finally did it. Lionel Messi’s move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain allows the Argentine to extend his career, to dream even more strongly about the title in Qatar 2022 and to play in the World Cup in the United States/Mexico/Canada 2026. And one more, tremendously important thing: to regain the joy of playing, to have fun again.
It is often raised as an objection that PSG usually walks without rivals in the French League, and that this superiority will be enhanced with the arrival of the Argentine. Nothing very different from what happened with Barcelona, who in their good times played 90 percent of their games with a superiority that bored. That the decadent Barcelona of recent years found everything more difficult is not an argument: that heavy aura of a team without direction only served to sink the “10”, from this Wednesday again the “30”.
Messi, 34, was no longer happy with the Barcelona jersey, even though a few days ago he cried saying that this time he did not want to leave. In a few years, when he looks back, he will realize what a favor Joan Laporta, president of Barcelona, and Javier Tebas, head of the Spanish League, did him.
What is the point of playing soccer if not to be happy? That goes for everyone, including Messi. And besides that, what is Messi playing for today, to win the Spanish League or now the French League? No, to win the Copa America as he did in July, to win the Champions League again and, above all, to win the World Cup, the last great tournament he is missing.
An example: Josep Guardiola understood very quickly at the time that a happy Messi is a better footballer. That is why in 2008 he told Laporta, then a young president, to let him go to the Beijing Olympics, despite the fact that Barcelona had the legal means to prevent it. Messi was thus Olympic champion. And in a little more than a year he could be World Champion, because the Argentine national team arrives with a positive inertia, unlike what has been happening in the last World Cups.
Are the European teams superior? Yes, Russia 2018 proved it, although in that World Cup Messi’s Argentina went out in the round of 16 losing 4-3 an unusual match with France, champion a couple of weeks later. A match that Argentina could have won, even if they did not deserve it. In other words: anything can happen in soccer, perhaps the main of its virtues in terms of sporting spectacle. To dismiss a team with a recharged and motivated Messi would be reckless.
But, in addition, Messi is now part of the enormous and powerful soccer “team” that is Qatar. He has a direct relationship with the organizers of the next World Cup, and also common interests as he never had before with the “owners” of a World Cup.
Argentina is a more popular team than Brazil in the Arab countries, and also in other nearby countries such as Bangladesh or Pakistan. The Qatar World Cup will be, as never before, a World Cup tailor-made for Messi: the Argentine national team no longer makes him suffer, but enjoy, and Qatar 2022 will be for him, in many ways, a continuation of his life with PSG.
The Qataris dreamed for years of hosting an Olympic Games, but soon realized that this path was more difficult than hosting a soccer World Cup. The Aspire Academy, a dream place for any athlete, is a small sample of what could be done there in terms of multisport, as well as the world athletics, swimming and handball championships, or tennis tournaments and so many other events. But nothing compares to the bet on soccer, which is proving to be very profitable for the Al Thani family, which rules Qatar.
Messi has freed himself from a Barcelona team that has had six years of dreadful frustrations and debacles in the Champions League and joins a team that can indeed win it after having been quite close this past season.
If the Argentine adds his fifth Champions League after 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015, it will be the first time since the 2006 World Cup in Germany that he arrives at a World Cup with that winning momentum. In 2006, José Pekerman opted not to play the then young Messi in the decisive moment of the quarterfinals against Germany. Unthinkable in Qatar 2022, which could be the World Cup of his life, although not his last.
The contract with PSG is for two years with an option for a third. The logical thing would be that, just as Messi will arrive at Qatar 2022 as part of the Qatari galaxy, for 2026 he will face the previous process as a star of the soccer business in the United States. Inter Miami? Yes, it’s the big possibility, but not the only one.
A World Cup at the age of 39? There is no physical or mental reason today for the United States and the World Cup not to motivate him. Ask Roger Federer. And, if there were any doubt, the mountain of dollars and the prospect of future business would be so great that it would quickly dissipate. But that is not the main issue: Messi likes above all to have fun playing soccer. The Barcelona of these years, bitter and victimizing, did not allow him to do so. Paris, on the other hand, will be a party.