Argentines celebrate ‘new stage’ in Messi’s career

Buenos Aires (AFP) – Argentines reacted with joy and pride as their national idol Lionel Messi arrived in France on Tuesday ahead of his expected move to Paris Saint-Germain following two decades at Barcelona.

The South American country may be 11,000 kilometres from Paris but Argentines were glued to their screens following the latest developments of the world’s most famous No.10.

“Messi and the day of the 10: he’s arrived and revolutionised Paris!” said sports newspaper Ole, referring to the day of the month and Messi’s shirt number.

While Barcelona fans may be crying at the loss of their star and PSG diehards rejoicing, Argentines viewed the six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s move positively.

“He’s come to the end of the cycle at Barcelona and it’s good to broaden your horizons,” Jose Iturria, a 60-year-old health worker in Buenos Aires, told AFP.

“The truth is he deserves the best because he’s the best player in the world.”

Messi is joining other stars in Paris such as France forward Kylian Mbappe, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Spain center-back Sergio Ramos and Brazil’s Neymar.

Dario Luque, 38, said his new club will give Messi “a change of air and as he’ll be surrounded by more stars… it will be good for him and the team.”

– ‘It won’t be the same’ –

Speaking to Argentine channel C5N, Argentina’s ambassador to France, Leonardo Constatino said amongst Argentines in France “there is great pride. Everyone is delighted and it’s very exciting.

“We’re lucky to have the best player in the world in Paris.”

Constatino said he had received “many calls” from people wanting to meet Messi.

Argentina’s football association produced an emotional video that was circulating on social media called “Chin up champion” that began with Messi’s tears at his farewell press conference in Barcelona.

“The most incredible thing is that no Argentine will ever desert you, go where you go,” said the video that featured scenes from Messi’s career and family life.

Last month, Messi inspired Argentina to victory in the Copa America to end the country’s 27-year wait for a major trophy.

“PSG is a team full of (major) figures and Leo keeps saying he wants to carry on achieving things, it’s the ideal team for him,” Elvio Paolorosso, a former physio with Argentina and Barcelona, told AM 550 radio station.

He said PSG’s Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino would help Messi settle.

“The city, the language will be a problem for the family but for him it’s one of the best teams of the moment, as well as having an Argentine coach who will make things easier.”

“It won’t be the same seeing Barcelona without you,” Javier Mascherano, the former Argentina international midfielder who spent eight years at Barcelona alongside Messi, wrote on Instagram.

“It’s the start of a new stage and there’s no doubt you will leave your indelible mark wherever you want to go. Always the best.”

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