PARIS (AP) — Lionel Messi will leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season after two years at the club, coach Christophe Galtier said Thursday.
Galter said ahead of PSG’s game against Clermont on Saturday that it would be Messi’s last match at the Parc des Princes. Messi’s contract expires at the end of June.
“I had the privilege of coaching the best player in the history of soccer,” Galtier said. “This will be his last match at the Parc des Princes, and I hope that he will receive the warmest of welcomes.”
PSG recruited Messi in August 2021 with the ambition to finally win the Champions League. The team is still waiting.
Although PSG won its 11th French league title this year, it again exited Europe’s top tournament in the round of 16.
Messi’s adventure in France has been bitter sweet. In spite of pretty good statistics, he has been embodying the team’s shortcomings in the view of many PSG fans who have repeatedly whistled and booed his name in recent weeks.
After struggling to adapt to the French league — the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner scored only six league goals in his first 26 games — Messi has improved this season as he developed an efficient understanding with forward Kylian Mbappe.
In 31 league matches, the 35-year-old Messi has scored 16 goals and delivered as many assists. In all competitions, Messi netted 21 goals and had 20 assists for PSG.
“This year, he has been an important part of the team, always available, always committed during training sessions,” Galtier said. “I don’t think any of the comments or criticisms are justified.”
Despite Galtier’s support, PSG’s appreciation of Messi has not always been so positive.
Earlier this season, the club suspended the World Cup winner following a trip to Saudi Arabia without the club’s permission.
Messi has a commercial contract with Saudi Arabia to promote tourism in the Middle Eastern country and has been linked with a lucrative move there at the end of the season.
There has also been talk of a return to Barcelona, where he spent the majority of his career, or to the United States to play in MLS.
Messi arrived at Barcelona at the age of 13 and left having won 35 titles. He helped the club win the Champions League four times, the Spanish league 10 times, the Copa del Rey seven times and the Spanish Super Cup eight times. Messi is also the team’s all-time scorer with 672 goals in 778 appearances, and the top scorer in the Spanish league with 474 goals in 520 matches.