Lionel Messi: Retire or go back to Barcelona - just don't waste any more time at toxic PSG!

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Lionel Messi PSG 2022-23 HIC 16:9
The Argentine has a big call to make because he looked nothing like the player that illuminated the 2022 World Cup in Wednesday's loss at Bayern

Lionel Messi is finished, apparently.

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In the eyes of some supposed experts, the Argentine's anonymity in Paris Saint Germain's tame Champions League loss at Bayern Munich offered irrefutable evidence that he can no longer cut it at the highest level.

It seems the 2022 World Cup has already been forgotten.

Although not by Jerome Rothen, which is precisely why he was so infuriated by Messi's lacklustre display at the Allianz Arena.

“The joke is that we saw his matches in Qatar, I saw his movements, how he invested himself," the former France and PSG winger fumed on RMC Sport.

"And I don't mind that, considering it's the national team jersey, a separate thing, but hey, respect the club in the capital a little, the one which allows you to maintain a status and salary.

"Only PSG could give him all of that and, obviously, PSG fell at his feet because they thought Messi was going to help us win [the Champions League]. But he doesn't win us anything!"

Now, is it solely Messi's fault that PSG made such a meek exit from this season's tournament? Not at all.

There are deep-rooted issues at PSG, who are paying a heavy price on the pitch for their obsession with expensive superstar signings.

But let's be brutally honest here, Messi is part of the problem. His salary is indeed gargantuan and Rothen is right to wonder if that money might be better spent elsewhere.

  1. Why is a state-backed super-club so short on cover?

    Why is a state-backed super-club so short on cover?

    As David Ginola, another former PSG winger, pointed out to Canal+ in the aftermath of the Allianz Arena debacle, "Individual talents alone are not enough to win the competition. You need a solid midfield and depth on the bench."

    PSG have neither, which Galtier alluded to in his post-match conference. Injuries have undeniably hit them hard, which is wholly unsurprising – and yet absolutely shocking.

    How is it that a state-backed super-club like PSG is so short on cover?

    They brought Juan Bernat, Nordi Mukiele, El Chadaille Bitshiabu, Warren Zaire-Emery and Hugo Ekitike off the bench on Wednesday night.

    Bayern, by contrast, were able to introduce Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Sadio Mane and Joao Cancelo.

    Questions, therefore, need to be asked of Al-Khelaifi & Co, and what exactly they are doing with the bottomless well of oil money at their disposal.

    However, Messi also needs to take a long, hard look at himself and figure out why he's at the Parc des Princes – and whether he should really even consider extending his stay.

  2. The worst decision of Messi's career

    The worst decision of Messi's career

    When he was first unveiled as a PSG player in 2021, he stated, "My dream is to win the Champions League once more and I think Paris is the best place to do so."

    He couldn't have been more wrong on that front, though. Less than two years on, PSG are further away from winning the tournament than when he joined and his presence is a contributing factor to the club's current malaise.

    Buying into the fundamentally flawed PSG project was undoubtedly the worst decision of Messi's career – and that's saying something given we're talking about a man that once took Josep Maria Bartomeu at his word.

    One can obviously understand the appeal of Paris.

    PSG were willing to pay him what he wanted monetarily, while they were also offering him the chance to once again line out alongside his good friend Neymar – as well as the most exciting young talent in world football, Kylian Mbappe.

    It should have been fun; it's been anything but.

  3. 'In the matches that matter, you disappear!'
    Getty Images

    'In the matches that matter, you disappear!'

    By his own admission, Messi endured a difficult first year in the French capital, for a variety of reasons, from traffic congestion to contracting Covid-19.

    His struggles off the field, unsurprisingly, resulted in poor performances on it. The net result was that he even ended up being booed by PSG supporters.

    This season has been better but, as Rothen has already alluded to, the suspicion among the fans is that Messi's improvement during the first half of the season was fuelled by his desire to arrive in Qatar fit and firing on all cylinders.

    Since then, he's been playing with even greater freedom, with the burden of winning the World Cup having been finally lifted from his shoulders, while Messi has also revealed that he now feels more "at ease" in Paris.

    That has come as little consolation to the likes of Rothen, though.

    "Messi doesn't want to get involved in this club," he claimed. "He says he's acclimatised now, but what are you acclimatised to?!

    "You scored 18 goals or 16 assists this year against Angers and Clermont? But in the matches that matter, you disappear!"

  4. Messi back to Barcelona...
    Getty Images

    Messi back to Barcelona...

    Again, Messi wasn't the only player to go missing against Bayern, a team that as Mbappe pointed out have been "built to win the Champions League".

    By contrast, PSG's owners have merely constructed a club with flimsy foundations utterly incapable of supporting the weight of three superstars and their colossal salaries.

    However, it's also fair to argue that Messi isn't as invested in PSG as they are in him.

    And that's hardly surprising. We know that he didn't want to leave his beloved Barcelona. We know they're still his club. We know Camp Nou is stil his home. Xavi has even said that publicly.

    So, if Messi does want to continue in European football beyond the end of the season, a return to Camp Nou is really the only move that makes sense for him, both from a sporting and personal perspective.

    He'll be offered more money to stay at PSG – and maybe even from elsewhere, with moves to MLS and Saudi Arabia being mooted at the moment.

    But financial considerations shouldn't even be a factor in Messi's thinking right now.

    Indeed, if he's mulling over remuneration, it should only be while attempting to work out how much he needs to lower his wage demands to make the move economically viable for a still cash-strapped Barca.

    Because if he's motivated by money at this stage of his career, he should just continue picking up a pay cheque from PSG – or join Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia.

    That's his prerogative, of course. Messi's a seven-time Ballon d'Or winner. He's earned the right to do whatever he thinks is best for him and his family.

  5. The GOAT has a massive decision to make
    Getty Images

    The GOAT has a massive decision to make

    However, if he's serious about winning another Champions League, then he needs to avoid wasting any more time at the Parc des Princes – because things are likely to get even uglier at PSG in the coming months.

    Retirement would even be a better option than sullying his reputation any further with his involvement in such a toxic entity.

    Quitting clearly isn't on his mind, of course. Messi's not even called time on his international career despite achieving his ultimate goal in Qatar in December.

    On the contrary, the word is that he firmly believes he can lead Argentina's defence of their World Cup title in North America in four years' time.

    There is, then, a fire still burning within Messi, at least when it comes to representing his country. So, while he may have already completed football, he's clearly not finished yet, in any sense.

    But Rothen is right: the Messi we saw against Bayern is not the inspired and inspirational character we saw in Qatar just three months ago, meaning The GOAT has a massive decision to make, one he needs to get it right.

    Because while joining PSG really was a calamitous call for his club career, staying would be even worse.