Jeers, pyrotechnics and paeans fire party for PSG's record 11th top flight title

By Paul Myers - RFI
Football News AP - Michel Euler
JUN 4, 2023 LISTEN
AP - Michel Euler

They came in their thousands to cheer Lionel Messi on his arrival at Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2021 and two years on, thousands came to the Parc des Princes to jeer him at his departure: the wondrous whirligig of time.

Or perhaps the bizarre expectations of a fanbase disappointed that the veteran Argentine who dazzled and delighted during nearly two decades at Barcelona could not steer PSG to a first Champions League title. Especially with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé beside him.

Messi - a seven time winner of the Ballon d'Or trophy for Europe's best player - featured in two title winning teams during his stay in the French capital.

He also won the 2022 Trophée des Champions - the French Super Cup - at the start of the season.

To go with his Ligue 1 trinket on Saturday night, Messi also picked up the Ligue 1 award for most assists - passes leading to a goal. He clocked up 16 of them in addition to his 16 goals.

Kylian Mbappé won the "Golden Boot" for a record-equalling fifth time for his 29 goals.

And yet the videos of previous 10 title-winning PSG teams, thumping music and a spectacular two-minute firework display to celebrate a record 11th top flight crown failed to stem the venom pouring from the stands towards the Argentine.

Messages about PSG's brilliance from former players such as David Beckham, Blaise Matuidi and David Ginola didn't help either.

It might have been different had Messi scored from a free-kick in stoppage time like he did in the match against Lille. That strike to give PSG a 4-3 win masked a spectral performance.

This one would have at least given PSG a 3-3 draw against Clermont rather than a 3-2 defeat before the Ligue 1 trophy presentation party.

The fine lines. And the ingratitude. Messi's goal in the 1-1 draw at Strasbourg on 28 May confirmed PSG as champions and he acquired another scoring record.

It was his 496th career league goal in Europe, breaking Cristiano Ronaldo's record for Europe's top five leagues.

"I would like to thank Leo Messi for his two seasons in Paris," said club president Nasser al-Khelaifi before the game against Clermont.

"His contribution to PSG and Ligue 1 cannot be underestimated and we wish Leo and his family all the best for the future."

Al-Khelaifi was similarly lyrical towards Sergio Ramos who also played his final game for the club after two seasons. The 37-year-old Spaniard scored the opener against Clermont.

He is understood to be heading to Saudi Arabia which is rumoured to be Messi's next destination.

It will be intriguing to see how fulsome al-Khelaifi will be towards the PSG boss Christophe Galtier.

The 56-year-old Frenchman is on the way out, according to the French football media. 

It would be a peculiar reward for wining the title. But logical.

To abuse one of the rejoinders from Bill Clinton's time as the American president: it's not the Champions League, stupid.