What’s next for PSG with Lionel Messi on his way out and Kylian Mbappe’s role set to change

Lionel Messi is currently suspended by Paris Saint-Germain for two weeks with a hefty fine and banned from all club facilities after an unauthorized Saudi Arabia trip as part of a commercial deal. The Argentina international’s contract is due to expire at the end of June and he will turn 36 just days before it runs out and he potentially joins another club. 

PSG and Messi’s chances of continuing together at this point are slim to none with a contract extension offer still on the table from the French champions. However, barring a turnaround of staggering proportions, it will not be revisited by either party and the former Barcelona man will depart Parc des Princes under a cloud.

Messi arrived in the French capital to a wild reception with PSG fans out in force to greet the FIFA 2022 World Cup winner in style with a show of enormous passion. That same passion was on display in Paris on Wednesday as the French champions’ ultras descended upon the club’s offices after a brief stop outside of Neymar’s house.

Messi’s name was chanted along with the Brazilian superstar and teammate Marco Verratti as well as that of chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi by irate supporters. The atmosphere around PSG right now is toxic with Messi’s personal situation nearing untenable and currently, it feels possible that we have seen him in Rouge et Bleu for the final time.

We look at how PSG could move forward from here.

Main man Mbappe

Messi’s internal suspension will not rule him out of all of the remaining games for Christophe Galtier’s side but that might not matter for the South American. PSG are trying to enact a major cultural shift at the club and part of that has been a form of clampdown on behavior such as that exhibited by Messi here and Neymar previously. With the Ligue 1 leaders facing a challenge to get a historic 11th Championnat crown across the line, the need to separate themselves from as much toxicity as possible is absolutely key. 

Doing without a player of Messi’s talent is not ideal when playing so poorly but the cost in terms of the negativity generated around him is getting to be too steep. With Neymar injured and Messi now suspended, the scene is set for Kylian Mbappe to step up as PSG’s main man for the remainder of the season as the club builds around him. The summer was already set to focus on adding players compatible with him so this period gives him time to get used to forever more being an undisputed top dog.

No Messi for new boss

The 3-1 home loss to Lorient FC has put the title back in jeopardy after wins over OGC Nice and RC Lens appeared to take care of it. Suddenly, PSG are just a few poor results away from potentially opening the door to bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille just weeks from the end of the season. Galtier will not be kept on and he will join Messi in departing, but it makes little sense to enact such sweeping changes before the title is sealed. 

Instead, knowing that the Argentine will not be present next campaign should lend more clarity to the situation and poses one less condition to potentially consider when hiring a new boss. Messi alone probably would not have dictated potential replacements and necessitated a star whisperer like a Zinedine Zidane, but the post-Galtier PSG will certainly be less complicated to shape tactically with one or more of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe out of the attack which could enable a greater pressing element which would mark a stylistic change.

The summer arrival of Milan Skriniar and potential exit of Sergio Ramos also influence considerations for next term, but clarity on Messi’s future was arguably the most fundamental given his status and wage impact. Taking that sort of stature of player out of the equation could also open the door to a younger and less experienced tactician more in-line with PSG’s hope for a focus on French talent and youth academy promise like a Thiago Motta or a Julian Nagelsmann, but the general unrest at present still suggests that experience has major value so it is no surprise to see Jose Mourinho’s name being bandied about.

Messi-less PSG attack will look much different

Perhaps most meaningful for the French champions is the fact that taking Messi out, regardless of Neymar, changes how the attacking options look. Hugo Ekitike might be handed a few chances to redeem himself alongside Mbappe while a target man profile would now be more compatible than it was when PSG were persevering with their superstar trio. 

Ideally, a full rebuild would see Messi, Neymar and Ekitike all move on but the Brazilian is recovering from injury and the Frenchman has suffered a poor debut season. A more direct approach is needed and is something that has been lacking arguably since Edinson Cavani left in 2020 so expect that to become an area of pressing importance.

Should PSG somehow succeed in moving Neymar on as well as Messi going, that gives Luis Campos scope to totally rebuild the team creatively which would bring wide elements as well as potential No. 10 profiles into play. This perhaps explains why Bernardo Silva has regularly been linked with a Parc des Princes move since his compatriot’s arrival.

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