Paris Saint-Germain are growing increasingly confident of signing Lionel Messi on a free transfer from Barcelona, having told their stores around the French capital to brace themselves for an influx of business based around shirt sales for the Argentina star, FootballTransfers can reveal.
Messi has made it known that he is unhappy at Barcelona after a two-decade association at the club. He was on the brink of leaving last summer before legal obligations forced him to stay at Camp Nou.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner, however, is out of contract at the end of the season and is not expected to sign a new deal.
Officials close to Barcelona have admitted that Messi will need to take a pay cut if he is to remain at the club while their lack of competitiveness is a further factor pushing him away from the Blaugrana, who lie 10th in La Liga.
PSG, along with Manchester City, are one of the two clubs most readily linked with Messi.
The Parisians, who would have no trouble fitting the 33-year-old into their superstar team, seem confident of winning the race for Messi. Indeed, their marketing department has briefed shops around the capital to prepare for a rush of trade when the deal is announced.
Additionally, PSG have told partner stores licenced to sell their official goods to brace themselves for a flood of interest ahead of a blockbuster deal.
Officially, Messi is not allowed to open transfer talks until six months before the end of his deal, which is up on June 30. However, it has been suggested that an agreement could already be in place.
The evidence in Paris would suggest that this is indeed the case.
One issue is outstanding, however. PSG have not told the retailers which number they expect Messi to wear.
At Barcelona, of course, he takes the No.10 shirt, but in Paris that is in possession of Neymar.
The Brazil international has been a cheerleader for Messi’s arrival at PSG in the summer. However, it is unclear if he would be willing to sacrifice his number to give his former Barcelona colleague his preferred shirt.
Signing Messi would be a statement of intent from the Parisians that they wish to cement their status as one of Europe’s leading clubs.
With the future of both Kylian Mbappe and Neymar on the line, such a blockbuster arrival would serve notice to the superstar pair, who are out of contract in 2022, that the Champions League runners-up will be a force for years to come.
Presently, they are under pressure to prove that after a difficult start to the season. They lie third in Ligue 1 and required them to go down to the final matchday of the Champions League to secure their progress to the last 16.
In the first knockout round, the Parisians may meet their future team-mate, with PSG pitted against Messi’s Barcelona.