Paris Saint-Germain clinched France’s 11th league title with a goal in a 1-1 draw away at Strasbourg, breaking the scoring record in Europe’s top five leagues, but the Argentine was at the club The future is still in doubt.
Messi’s opener on Saturday was canceled out by Kevin Gameiro’s equalizer, but the result left PSG unassailable four points clear of second-placed Lens with one game remaining in the season.
PSG broke Saint-Etienne’s record of 10 titles set in 1981, which they equaled a year earlier under former coach Mauricio Pochettino.
It was PSG’s ninth title in the last 11 seasons during which they have dominated French football under the ownership of Qatar Sports Investments.
PSG started the penultimate weekend of the season six points clear of nearest rivals Lens with just six remaining and a far wider goal difference.
In the end, they only needed a draw to be officially crowned champions, as Lens comfortably beat relegated Ajaccio 3-0.
Kylian Mbappe set up Lionel Messi to put PSG ahead with his 16th Ligue 1 goal of the season before the end of the game.
This is also Messi’s 496th league goal in Europe, breaking Ronaldo’s record for goals in the top five European leagues.
Former Paris striker Gameiro equalized with 11 minutes left, grabbing the rebound after Donnarumma made a save from Morgan Sanson.
The draw ended up being good for both teams as it allowed Strasbourg to guarantee their survival in the top flight.
Victory for PSG was assured despite Christophe Galtier’s side losing six games in 2023, with closest challengers Lens getting most of the plaudits.
Paris Saint-Germain were unbeaten ahead of the World Cup when Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar seemed driven by the prospect of the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.
However, they have lost six of their first 17 league games in 2023 and were eliminated by Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League and eliminated in the French Cup at the same stage.
Paris Saint-Germain’s holy grail is the Champions League, and the club has often underperformed in the crunch time – including five exits in seven consecutive seasons in the past 16 games.
The mood around the club has looked somber in recent weeks, with fans disaffected. Neymar, 31, has suffered more injury problems and Messi has been suspended for missing training after an unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia.
When the results fell short, some fans’ anger was directed at Messi, who was deemed underperformed after returning after winning the World Cup with Argentina.
Football agent Marco Cordmier told Al Jazeera earlier this month that it was clear Messi – whose contract expires at the end of the season – wanted a change of scenery.
“He could go with Al Hilal, Inter Miami or Barcelona…but for sure Messi will not be with PSG next year because there are already rifts, including with the fans,” he said.
There is also growing speculation that Galtier – who also won the title with Lille two years ago – will be replaced at the end of the season.
“When we take stock, we need to analyze the first half of the season and how the players came back from the World Cup,” Galtier said on Friday.
“But I understand the disappointment. It’s been a very strange season.”
Galtier arrived last year after Mbappe decided to snub Real Madrid and sign a new three-year contract.
Mbappe – a goalscorer with 40 goals this season – may now wonder whether he made the right choice, although questions about his future could soon resurface.
The 24-year-old is reportedly out of contract next year unless he exercises his option to stay until 2025.
All eyes will be on Paris Saint-Germain’s Portuguese recruiting guru Luis Campos in the transfer market.
He is subject to UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, and PSG have a string of out-of-favor players with big contracts who are set to return after a season on loan.
Messi’s net annual salary savings of around 30 million euros ($32.5 million) will give him some leeway.
Many people are willing to pay attention to young players from the Paris region, which is a prolific hotbed of talent.
After all, the club have been stunned in recent years by their decision to let so many rookies go, from Kingsley Coman and Adrian Rabiot to Moussa Diaby, Christopher Nkunku and Mike Mainan.
Meanwhile, attempts by the club owners to buy the Parc des Princes from the city of Paris to expand capacity continue to be frustrated, raising the prospect of a move to the larger Stade de France.