Lionel Messi’s great challenge at PSG: winning the UEFA Champions League

Lionel Messi's great challenge at PSG: winning the UEFA Champions League

Perhaps not many followed PSG in the “pre Lionel Messi” era. There is a before and after after the arrival of the Argentine star. What many possibly know about the Parisian team is their need to win the Champions League. His obsession with kissing La Orejona. His desperate desire to conquer Europe.

PSG was founded in 1970 and can proudly walk the streets of all of France saying they are the only French team that has never descended. In addition, it won nine local leagues, twelve French Cups, eight League Cups and nine French Super Cups. And the Champions? The Champions League is like the carrot of Qatari investors: they chase it, they chase it, they chase it, but they have not yet reached it. Never.

In the 2012-13 Champions League they were eliminated in the quarterfinals just against Barcelona. Who scored them back then? Messi. In the first leg it was 2-2 with goals from Leo and Xavi. And in the return it was 1-1, but the away goal rule made PSG be eliminated. For the following season, the Parisians brought in reinforcements such as Cavani and Marquinhos. His objective was the same: the carrot of the Champions League. Again they were left out in the quarterfinals by the away goal rule. This time against Chelsea.

La Orejona was the only one who was desired. Meanwhile, Super Cups were parading, more Leagues, League Cups, but no Champions. As if that were not enough, the thorn was once again the same: in the 2014-15 season, PSG was eliminated for the third time in a row in the quarterfinals … and again against Messi’s Barcelona! The first leg was a 3-1 triumph for Barcelona with a double by Suárez and one by Neymar, and in the return leg the Barça team won 2-0 with a double by Neymar, now in the ranks of the Parisian team as well.

It may seem like a curse, but the truth is that in the 2015-16 Champions League season, PSG were again eliminated in the quarterfinals. Neither the arrival of Ángel Di María nor the goals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic managed to break the curse of Europe. After drawing 2-2 against Manchester City in the first leg, they traveled to Manchester and lost 1-0 to a goal from Belgium’s De Bruyne. At that time the DT was Laurent Blanc, The President, who despite winning 11 titles in his three years in Paris, had to leave the post due to the pending issue: La Orejona.

In the 2016-17 season of the Champions League, one of the most historic comebacks in the world of football occurred. A comeback that … once again … plays against PSG: the famous round of 16 match against Barcelona. The Parisian team crushed the Spanish team 4-0 in the first leg with a double from Di María, one from Draxler and another from Cavani. It seemed all said. But no. The Camp Nou spoke. And his players too: the return was 6-1 by Barcelona with a penalty goal from Messi, a double from Neymar in the 88th and 91st minutes, and the famous goal by Sergi Roberto in the 95th minute. of the most iconic pictures of Messi with Barcelona: the 10 raising his fist over a group of fans who could not believe what had just happened.

PSG still had the Champions crossed and not even the statistics were in their favor: a team had never managed to overcome a 0-4 in the Champions League and Barcelona came to do it before them. For the third time in the last five years, the Spanish team – led by Messi- was the executioner of the Parisian team.

Who could come to PSG to win the Champions League? Or Rei Ney. Brazilian striker Neymar left Barcelona and became the most expensive transfer in football history. His goal was also shaped like a carrot and Orejona: The Champions League. But in the 2017-18 season, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid left them out in the round of 16. It was a 3-1 victory for Madrid at the Bernabéu and then another 2-1 victory for the Spanish at the Parque de los Príncipes.

In 2018-19 nothing changed. The Champions League was once again a rotten carrot. Neither Mbappé, nor Paredes, nor Neymar, not even the great Gigi Buffon could avoid another knockdown in the round of 16. It was against Manchester United. At the Theater of Dreams, PSG won 2-0, but at the Parc des Princes those dreams were shattered and fell 3-1 to a double from Lukaku and a goal from Rashford.

PSG continued to win all the local titles, but they had little flavor. It was the fourth year in a row that he had won the Super Cup, Ligue 1, the French Cup and the League Cup, but without the taste of the Champions, those tournaments seemed like an undercooked hamburger and it was difficult to enjoy. In the 2018-19 season, the Champions League – and the whole world – were surprised by the pandemic and from the quarterfinals the matches were played as a single match and without an audience.

With Thomas Tuchel as manager, PSG reached its first major Champions League final that season. He left Borussia Dortmund, Atalanta, RB Leipzig on the way, and found himself in the most important match in his history with a certain Bayern Munich. The Da Luz Stadium in Portugal was anything but light for the Parisian team that lost 1-0 and was left, once again, wanting to kiss the Orejona.

Javier Pastore, Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta, Ángel Di María, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti, David Beckham, Edinson Cavani, David Luiz, Marquinhos, Kylian Mbappé, Icardi, Navas, Neymar, Buffon, Paredes. Ancelotti, Blanc, Emery, Tuchel, Pochettino. About 1,000 million euros invested in the best players and coaches in the last 10 years, and no Champions.

We come to the present. Or almost. To the last Champions. The one from 2020-21. The one that Chelsea conquered against Manchester City. And PSG? PSG reached the semis, but had no chances in that instance against Pep Guardiola’s City: it was a 4-1 defeat on aggregate. “We are very disappointed,” Pochettino, the Argentine coach in charge of PSG, said at the time. And he added: “We did not have that percentage of luck that is necessary when the game is even.”

I don’t know if Messi will bring luck, but surely talent. And you want the Champions League. The Argentine star said in his farewell conference with Barcelona that he wants to continue winning titles, so much so that his desire is to overcome the most winner in history: his friend Dani Alves, who at 38 years has 43 trophies.

Messi has 38 titles, five are missing to catch up with Alves. For the Qatari investors of PSG, a Champions League with the Parisian club is surely equivalent to five or even the 43 titles that Dani Alves has. It is the carrot they want the most.

Since August 10, 2021, PSG has Messi on its roster. The one who took him out of the Champions League so many times may be the one who gets him into a new final and gives him, once and for all, the long-awaited European title. For Messi, this trophy also became an object of desire: since the 2014-15 season he has not managed to conquer it.

If you focus and try to visualize the 2021-22 Champions League, you can see that it is shaped like a carrot. A carrot already known and repeated for PSG, but new for an insatiable Leo Messi.

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