Paris (AFP) – Lionel Messi’s difficult start to life at Paris Saint-Germain plunged new lows this week, with the French giants crashing out of the Champions League before their fans jeered the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner on Sunday.
Here, AFP Sport takes a look at Messi’s fleeting brilliant moments and the more frequent tough times since he left Barcelona for Paris last year:
First goal v Man City
— Messi scored his first PSG goal in their first big game of the season against Manchester City. He had failed to score in his first three appearances, but got off the mark in style at the Parc des Princes. After surging forward from the halfway line, Messi exchanged passes with Kylian Mbappe and fired a brilliant shot into the net.
Late magic beats Leipzig
— Messi’s best moments for PSG have come in the Champions League, despite their early exit. There were times when their campaign looked like it could end even sooner, though, such as when they trailed RB Leipzig at home in the group stage. But Messi scored twice in seven second-half minutes, including the winner from the penalty spot, to rescue a 3-2 victory.
Hat-trick of assists
— When the Argentinian first joined PSG, most people would not have expected three assists against Ligue 1 strugglers Saint-Etienne to feature on a list of his highlights. But he did produce an excellent display on a snowy night in Saint-Etienne and has the joint most assists in the French top flight this season, tied on 10 with Mbappe.
Wait for first league goal
29/08/2021 – 20/11/2021
— Messi had to wait until November to score his first league goal for PSG. It finally came in a 3-1 home win over Nantes, after he failed to score in games against Reims, Lyon, Rennes, Marseille and Lille.
First defeat by Rennes
— PSG struggled for goals early in the season when Messi was in the team, and that problem was evident in a 2-0 loss at Rennes. Messi, Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria all started, but Mauricio Pochettino’s men failed to even register a shot on target.
— The holders were dumped out of the French Cup by Nice as Messi made his first start since contracting Covid-19 in Argentina. After the second goalless draw between the sides this season, on-loan goalkeeper Marcin Bulka made the decisive save in the shoot-out for Nice, against his parent club.
Missed penalty v Real Madrid
— Although PSG’s Champions League debacle of 2022 will be remembered most for the second-leg collapse in Madrid, Messi’s missed penalty in the first game was a big moment. His spot-kick was saved by Thibaut Courtois in the 62nd minute, and although Mbappe’s brilliant goal grabbed a 1-0 win late on, it proved to be crucial in the tie.
Champions League exit
— Messi and PSG’s tough season was dealt a killer blow as they capitulated at the Santiago Bernabeu. Having led 2-0 on aggregate with less than half an hour remaining, Karim Benzema’s hat-trick ensured PSG’s wait for a maiden Champions League title would go on. The way the French giants imploded brought back memories of their dramatic last-16 defeats in 2017 and 2019 by Barcelona and Manchester United respectively.
— The Paris fans made their feelings known in the team’s next game after the Madrid debacle. Messi and Neymar were held partly to blame and were subjected to jeers and whistles throughout a straightforward 3-0 win over bottom club Bordeaux on Sunday at the Parc des Princes.
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