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Amid questions about his future at Paris Saint-Germain, superstar forward Kylian Mbappé suggested that Lionel Messi was not treated as well as he should have been during his two-year run with the French club.
Speaking to Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t ESPN), Mbappé expressed confusion over Messi’s reception as a member of PSG:
“We’re talking about potentially the best player in the history of football. It’s never good news when someone like Messi leaves.
“Personally I haven’t really understood why so many people were relieved that he was leaving. We’re talking about Messi, he should be respected—but instead, he didn’t get the respect he deserved in France. It’s a shame, but that’s how it went. He’ll have to be replaced as best as possible.”
Messi spent two seasons at PSG after Barcelona could not afford to retain him due to financial issues, and the Argentinian soccer legend is now heading to the United States as a member of MLS’ Inter Miami.
In Messi’s two seasons at PSG, the Parisians won a pair of Ligue 1 titles, but they had two disappointing results in the UEFA Champions League, getting knocked out in the Round of 16 both times.
Per ESPN, Messi seemed to take the brunt of the criticism from fans for PSG’s UCL shortcomings, as they booed him mercilessly after the early exits.
Messi is arguably the greatest player in the history of soccer with 715 club goals across all competitions, 12 league titles, four UEFA Champions League titles, seven Ballon d’Or awards, two FIFA World Cup Golden Ball awards and one FIFA World Cup title to his credit.
The 35-year-old Messi did not perform at his usual level during his time at PSG, though, scoring just six goals in 26 Ligue 1 matches in 2021-22, and 16 goals in 32 Ligue 1 matches last season.
Those represented his lowest league goal totals since he scored only 10 goals with Barca in 2007-08.
As for Mbappé, he is in line to be the unquestioned face of PSG next season with Messi out, but that is only if PSG agrees to keep him.
In the interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Mbappé said he is happy to play at Paris Saint-Germain next season, but he will not exercise his option for the following season, meaning he can become a free agent at the end of the 2023-24 campaign.
World football insider Fabrizio Romano previously reported that PSG don’t want to let Mbappé leave for nothing, so they intend to either get him to sign a new contract this offseason or transfer him before the 2023-24 season.
ESPN’s Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez added that Real Madrid are prepared to make a bid for Mbappé this offseason if he is available.
Unless PSG are able to reach an agreement with Mbappé on a new contract, they could lose arguably the two best players in the world during the same offseason, which likely won’t sit well with a PSG fanbase that is already expecting better results.