Stade de Reims - Paris Saint-Germain will go down in history for many reasons. Never before has a Ligue 1 match been so widely reported around the world. It was not the final of the Champions League or the World Cup, but what happened on 29 August 2021 between 20:45 and 22:30 will be remembered. In Spain, Telecinco bought the rights to broadcast it. Piqué's company bought the competition and gave that match to Ibai Llanos to broadcast it on his Twitch channel.
When it looked like Neymar and Mbappé were going to share the attack with Messi, Pochettino made an unpredictable change and took Neymar off the pitch to bring on Messi. The two great friends, who months earlier had embraced after the Copa America final, were reunited at the Stade Auguste Delaune in Reims. The Argentinian coach made a tactical decision and put aside the front pages of the newspapers. Enough of what has been written over the last few weeks to affect a squad that even Jesé himself described as a group of friends showered with millions of euros.
Messi did not have a dream debut. He simply had half an hour to get his feet under him, loosen up and get to know his teammates in an official match. The season will be very long, PSG will be the team to beat in their competition and, above all, in the Champions League where they will face the squad and the Qatari project. It remains to be seen what will happen to the million-dollar investment if they do not win the European crown. If the sheikhs get tired and, after the World Cup, leave the club or continue to move on, as is the case with Manchester City. Messi has many games ahead of him to sell shirts and a handful to make Paris champions. Moments counted where he will not be able to fail and the pressure will be endless.
At the end of August a very awkward situation usually happens in the world of football. A coach can't field a player because either he is in rebellion to be let go, or his club is negotiating with another club and they don't want to risk injury and devalue their asset by playing an unimportant game. The Friday before Reims-PSG it was made public that Mbappé was called up to play. Strange. On Sunday at 19:00 we already knew that the Frenchman would start. Very strange. By 22:30 the player who has Florentino Pérez's head in knots had played 96 minutes, had been given a couple of serious kicks and, what's worse, had scored both goals for his team.
All previous theories that Mbappé's move to Real Madrid was theatrical and more than signed collapsed. They had the same validity as the news about Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Manchester City. Sports journalism has long been used as part of the negotiations and hasn't caught on. Mbappé was lined up by Pochettino in another macabre twist of script. The sheikhs don't want photos, or to grace anyone from the old continent with their money. They prefer to value investments to the last cent. It's a cultural issue; in Europe we don't understand why PSG won't sell Mbappé in September for 180 million when he could leave for free in nine months. In Qatar, they see the French star as part of their heritage and PSG as a business with which to sell their image of authority on the old continent. Every minute he spends in that shirt is accumulated power, it is performance, it is one more minute of the new era of ultra-modern football.
Florentino Pérez has negotiated with the most unpleasant and irritating managers. He has managed to secure impossible signings. The money was important, but so was his treatment of the star and the club crest that received the player. With Nasser Al-Khelaifi those arts don't apply because the value he places on money is different. Nor are they valid with Mbappé because the player has no arguments to leave Paris. In Madrid he would earn less money and the Champions League would be complicated. The crest and the project are his only attractions.
Those 96 minutes and the two goals against Reims can raise the value of the player to 200 million euros, they can be the beginning of the end, but deferred for nine very long months or a sale for the agreed price, but imposing his way of life until the last minute with a historic challenge. To simplify everything to the fact that PSG's patrons have money to spare is too pretentious. There is more underneath the petrodollars that have flowed into certain football teams. Others were looking for immediate returns and have ruined historic clubs.
Messi visited Reims. The city of the team that lost two European Cup finals to Real Madrid and was twinned with the Madrid club for life. The 30-year-old's debut was historic, but the Mbappé case has written another page in the novel of terror that they are living in Madrid with his arrival. Football is football.