Paris Saint-Germain will challenge Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe to follow their phenomenal World Cup feats by delivering a Champions League title in the new year.
The Qatar-owned club have European glory in their sights, and a difficult last-16 tie against Bayern Munich awaits them, with games against the German champions coming up in February and March.
After seeing Mbappe win the Golden Boot as top scorer, and Messi take the Golden Ball prize as the outstanding player, PSG undoubtedly had a strong World Cup.
The sight of Mbappe and Messi in opposition with France and Argentina, as they were in Sunday’s World Cup final, will soon be replaced by them uniting on the field, possibly even by the end of the month.
PSG have a Ligue 1 game against Strasbourg on December 28, and it remains to be seen whether coach Christophe Galtier will have both men available for that game, given Messi is heading back to celebrate in Argentina in the coming days.
In a string of messages on social media, PSG addressed the two chief protagonists in the final, in which Messi scored twice and lifted the trophy, while Mbappe hit a hat-trick but finished on the beaten side.
“An extraordinary final from our two Parisians,” the club said. “One of them had to win. You’ll forever go down in footballing history, @leomessi.
“What a final! Bravo @leomessi, thank you @k.mbappe for all these emotions. You have been heroic. You have marked this World Cup with your talent. You should be proud.”
793 goals. 1,003 games. Four #UCL titles. And now the World Cup trophy. pic.twitter.com/6oPvDMEtMV
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 18, 2022
Whatever French envy there might be towards Messi should soon subside, with a photograph of Mbappe and Messi touching hands during the game receiving plenty of love from PSG’s players.
Club-mates Nuno Mendes and Danilo Pereira both posted the picture, adding emojis of applauding hands.
Midfield stalwart Marco Verratti addressed Messi’s success, writing on Instagram: “You deserve it friend. Congratulations.”
To Mbappe, Verratti wrote: “Head high. You showed the whole world that you’re a phenomenon.”
“Congratulations” was the message from defender Juan Bernat to Messi, and “Bravo to you too” he said to Mbappe.
Former PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino praised Argentina coach Scaloni, saying in a message to his compatriot: “Congratulations Lionel. Thank you!”
Addressing Messi, Pochettino added: “Deserved @leomessi. Thank you!”
— LeBron James (@KingJames) December 18, 2022
PSG have never won the Champions League, and it is the footballing holy grail for them now, with each incoming coach knowing winning domestic silverware alone is not considered to be fulfilling the remit of the job.
They went closest in 2020, losing out in the final to Bayern, for whom Frenchman Kingsley Coman scored the only goal in Lisbon. Coman was one of two France players to fail from the spot in Sunday’s World Cup penalty shoot-out, along with Aurelien Tchouameni.
Given the outstanding form that Messi and Mbappe have shown over the last month, PSG may never be better placed to strike for continental trophy glory.
Yet there is another matter brewing, which is that Messi and Mbappe may be in the final throes of their club alliance.
With Messi’s two-year contract at PSG due to expire at the end of this season, removing uncertainty over his future might become as great a priority as the next trophy.
President Nasser Al-Khelaifi said in early December the matter would be discussed after the World Cup, with Messi having been linked with a possible end-of-season switch to Inter Miami.
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