Argentine Soccer Star Lionel Messi Signs With Paris Saint-Germain
NOEL KING, HOST:
Lionel Messi is moving to Paris. He will join the Qatari-owned club Paris Saint-Germain. When he got to Paris this week, Messi got a hero's welcome. Here's Rebecca Rosman.
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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Messi, Messi, Messi.
REBECCA ROSMAN, BYLINE: Messi could hear the screams as he touched down in Paris. Around 300 fans chanted the soccer icon's name outside the Le Bourget Airport Tuesday afternoon. He waved back from a window wearing a T-shirt that said Ici c'est Paris, or Here is Paris - PSG's official slogan. Yesterday, Messi signed a 35 million euro per season, about $41 million, two-year contract with PSG. There's also an option for a one-year extension. Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday, Messi acknowledged his decision to leave FC Barcelona wasn't easy, but said he felt happy to be in Paris.
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LIONEL MESSI: (Through interpreter) Everything that happened to me last week was hard, quick and emotional - without forgetting all that I went through one day to the next and hopeful about this new stage.
ROSMAN: Backed by Qatari money, PSG was one of the few teams that could afford Messi's salary demands. The 34-year-old, who started his career with Barcelona 17 years ago, had previously agreed to take a 50% pay cut in order to sign a new five-year deal with the club. But in a statement late last week, Barcelona said it was unable to financially restructure his contract to comply with the Spanish league's salary cap.
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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in non-English language.)
ROSMAN: In a promotional ad released late Tuesday evening, Messi is seen standing on the soccer field at the Parc de Princes Stadium in Paris, wearing a blue, red and white PSG jersey. But in a nod to the past, Messi's new number, 30, is the same one he wore during his first professional season with Barcelona in 2004.
For NPR News, I'm Rebecca Rosman in Paris.
(SOUNDBITE OF ALLORA MIS' "ALL THE LEAVES ARE GONE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.