Lionel Messi is set to commit his future to Paris Saint-Germain, with reports the World Cup winner has ‘verbally agreed’ to sign a contract extension.
The rumours will come as a huge blow to former club Barcelona, who have made no secret of their desperation to bring the Argentina maestro back to the Nou Camp.
According to French outlet La Parisien, Messi and PSG have reached an agreement in principle over a new deal that will keep the newly crowned world champion in the French capital for another season.
The 35-year-old’s deal expires at the end of the current campaign, leading to claims he could return to Barcelona on a free transfer in the summer.
A switch to Major League Soccer and David Beckham’s Inter Miami team has also been suggested.
But La Parisien, whose information is backed up by transfer insider Fabrizio Romano, claim he has instead decided to stay put in Paris.
Messi experienced a rocky first season in Ligue 1 following his shock Barcelona exit and surprise move to the French top flight, where he managed 11 goals and 15 assists in 34 games – a quiet campaign by Messi’s standards.
But the forward has since settled at the club and he is on 12 goals and 14 assists in 19 games at the halfway point this term, and after leading Argentina to the World Cup in Qatar you can be sure he’ll be hungry to maintain his superb form.
Insiders have also suggested Messi’s family has also settled and happy with their new lifestyle in Paris – meaning the superstar is in no rush to leave, even for the prospect of returning to his second home of Barcelona.
It is claimed a contract extension has been on the table for months and that Messi, his father Jorge and PSG’s hierarchy came to an agreement at the beginning of December during the World Cup.
The reports claim the deal will be finalised and signed once Messi returns to the club following his post-World Cup break, with the football icon still soaking up the celebrations back in Argentina following Sunday’s final victory over France.
Messi spoke about how he’s loving life in Paris before the World Cup began, saying in an interview with Conmebol: “I like Paris a lot more, I discover the city and I find it magnificent.
“In the first year, there was a huge change. Things happened very suddenly, it was not my goal to leave Barcelona and everything was abrupt.
“After this long period and difficult times, I am happy to live where I live and my family and I are enjoying Paris.
“Today, I enjoy everything including football.”
It is said the figures – Messi currently earns around £700,000-a-week – and length of the deal are yet to be determined, but it’s believed to be a one-year extension to ensure he is still a PSG player for the 2023/24 season.
Messi’s desire to keep playing at the elite level of football is also behind his decision to stay put.
At PSG he plays as part of the world’s most extravagant front-three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, is almost guaranteed to add to his domestic trophy cabinet and has the best chance of adding to his Champions League crowns, too.
Messi will be looking to lift the European Cup for the fifth time in his career this season, with PSG facing Bayern Munich in the last-16.
He has already made history in the Champions League this term, becoming the first player to score in 18 consecutive seasons in Europe’s elite competition.
He is also just 11 goals shy of dethroning Cristiano Ronaldo as the all-time top goalscorer in the competition’s history – with his GOAT rival unlikely to add to that tally anytime soon as he searches for a new club after leaving Manchester United.
Messi will now be the big favourite to win an eighth Ballon d’Or after Argentina’s World Cup success, and it is thought staying put and competing at the top level at PSG will give him the best chance to claim more accolades, rather than rejoin a Barcelona still yet to climb back to the top of the Spanish game.
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