Lionel Messi finally signed his eagerly anticipated Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) contract on Tuesday night to complete the move that confirms the end of a career-long association with Barcelona and sends PSG into a new era.
PSG said in a statement that the 34-year-old Argentina star signed a two-year deal with the option for a third season.
“I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain,” Messi said.
“Everything about the club matches my football ambitions. I know how talented the squad and the coaching staff are here. I am determined to help build something special for the club and the fans, and I am looking forward to stepping out onto the pitch at the Parc des Princes.”
No salary details were given but Messi is set to earn approximately 35 million euros ($41m) net, according to the Associated Press news agency, who spoke to a person with knowledge of the negotiations on condition of anonymity before the contract was signed.
“I am delighted that Lionel Messi has chosen to join Paris Saint-Germain and we are proud to welcome him and his family to Paris,” PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi said.
“He has made no secret of his desire to continue competing at the very highest level and winning trophies, and naturally our ambition as a club is to do the same.”
Messi will wear the number 30, as revealed in a video by the club, the number he had when he began his professional career at Barcelona between 2004-2006.
Throngs of PSG fans gathered at Le Bourget Airport in Paris to welcome Messi, who was wearing a T-shirt featuring “Ici c’est Paris” – “This is Paris.”
The words are a long-familiar refrain from a favoured fan chant at Parc des Princes stadium, where Messi is to be presented to them before kickoff of Saturday night’s game against Strasbourg.
Such was the fervour of his arrival that police had to push back to stop metal barriers from toppling over at the airport as fans surged forward to get a better view. He then travelled into Paris with a police escort that included several officers on motorbikes and clad in black at the back of it.
As disbelief at landing one of football’s all-time greats turned to sheer enthusiasm, many gathered for a glimpse of Messi at the stadium. They got their wish as the smiling superstar briefly waved to them before he underwent a medical check.
Earlier, Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, had also confirmed his son was moving to PSG in a brief exchange with reporters at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport before taking his flight in the early afternoon.
Messi arrived with his wife and three children and boarded a private jet.
“With it all, toward a new adventure. The five together,” Antonela Roccuzzo said on Instagram alongside a photo with her husband on the plane.
PSG supporters have seen their club transformed over the last 10 years since the influx of Qatari sovereign wealth investment linked to the emir. Once Messi’s Barcelona contract expired – and the Catalan club could not afford to keep him – PSG was one of the few clubs that could finance a deal to sign the six-time world player of the year.
Messi’s arrival gives PSG formidable attacking options as he links up with France World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe and Brazil forward Neymar.
“Back together,” Neymar posted on Instagram over a video of them hugging, playing for Barcelona.
While PSG had to pay 222 million euros (then $261m) to sign Neymar from Barcelona in 2017, there was no transfer fee for Messi.
Messi became the most desired free agent in football history after his attempts to stay at Barcelona were rejected last week by the Spanish league because the salary would not comply with financial regulations, with the Catalan club burdened by debts of more than 1.2 billion euros ($1.4bn).
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino quickly contacted his fellow Argentine after Barcelona announced last Thursday that Messi would be leaving the club he joined as a 13-year-old.
Messi won every notable honour with Barcelona and was granted a tearful exit news conference on Sunday to signal the end of an era. Only Cristiano Ronaldo in the current era challenges Messi’s status as an all-time great.
PSG will be hoping not only that Messi helps the team regain the French title it lost to Lille last season, but finally win the Champions League.
Messi, who won four Champions Leagues and 10 domestic league titles with Barcelona, joins several other big names arriving at PSG on a free transfer this summer.
Spain defender Sergio Ramos was no longer wanted at Real Madrid, Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum had run down his contract with Liverpool, and Italy’s Euro 2020-winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma also joined after his contract with AC Milan ran out.
Former Barcelona and PSG midfielder Ronaldinho wished Messi “many moments of joy” on Tuesday. The pair had played together at Barcelona between 2004 and 2008.
“It’s a great joy to have played in these two clubs and now see my friend wearing this shirt, may there be many moments of joy Leo!” Ronaldinho said on Twitter. “I’m also very happy with my partner @sergioramos on the team and a super cast, I’m feeling Champions,” he added.
The arrival of Messi, whose last contract with Barcelona was worth a total of 555 million euros ($650m) and reported to be the most lucrative in world sport, is also set to provoke a renewed debate about UEFA’s financial fair play rules.
Football’s European governing body introduced the rules in 2009 in an attempt to restrict the power of free-spending owners to buy winning results, but their success is debatable.
The star-power of Messi, who has 245 million followers on Instagram, will be welcome news for Ligue 1 as a battle rages between broadcasters over the price of its television rights, crucial to the finances of the clubs.
3 Keys: Lightning at Avalanche, Game 5 of Stanley Cup Final – NHL.com
(3A) Lightning at (1C) Avalanche
8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS
Colorado leads best-of-7 series 3-1
The Colorado Avalanche can win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001 with a victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Ball Arena in Denver on Friday.
The Avalanche took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 4 on Wednesday. Colorado is 15-3 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including 7-2 at Ball Arena, but know this home game will be different with the Stanley Cup in the building.
“You try to treat it like another day, but you’re going to have thoughts of different things that haven’t been there all year,” Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram said. “But you’ve just got to stick to your routine, do what you’ve done every other day you’ve come to the rink and just make sure that you’re prepared to play your best tonight.”
The Lightning will seek to become the second team in NHL history to rally from down 3-1 in a best-of-7 Cup Final. Tampa Bay came back from trailing 3-2 in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs and a 2-0 hole against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
Now the Lightning need three straight wins against the Avalanche to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup in three consecutive seasons since the New York Islanders won four straight championships from 1980-83.
“You just don’t know how many opportunities, how many kicks you’re going to get at it,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. “I think for us it’s easier to think that you’ll be back every year just because of how things have been going. That’s just not the reality. There’s a lot of guys in the room that haven’t won Cups, guys that have been in a lot of situations like this in the past, so there’s a lot on the line and you just want to make sure you make the most of these situations.”
Here are 3 keys to Game 5:
1. Be smart at the start
Colorado started fast in winning each of the first two games of the series at home, grabbing a 2-0 lead in the opening 9:23 of Game 1 and a 3-0 lead by 13:52 of the first period in Game 2. With the chance to win the Stanley Cup in front of their fans, the Avalanche will try to jump on the Lightning early again, but they will also need to control their emotions and keep their focus regardless of how the start goes.
“Any time — a playoff game, a regular season game — you want to start well,” Avalanche forward J.T. Compher said. “We’ve done that at home, but it’s going to be 60 minutes. We’ve talked about it. The hardest one to win is the one to close out a team, especially a team like this. So we know whether the start goes our way or not the first five, 10 minutes, it’s going to be a 60-minute effort, maybe even more. We’ll be ready to play our way for as long as it takes.”
Conversely, the Lightning will need to do a better job of weathering the early Avalanche storm than they did in the first two games.
2. Status of Point, Cernak, Cirelli, Burakovsky
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said forward Andre Burakovsky, who hasn’t played since being hit in the hand with the puck in the second period of Game 2, is “a possibility for tonight.” Things are less clear for the banged-up Lightning with forwards Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Erik Cernak.
Point returned to play the first two games of the Cup Final after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury, but was unable to play the past two games. Cernak left Game 4 in the second period after blocking a shot from Nathan MacKinnon off his leg. Cirelli returned to finish Game 4 after appearing to injure his arm in the second period, but his status is unclear for Game 5.
“This is definitely a game-time decision with a few of our guys,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “‘Cernie’ is feeling better, though. I’m pretty confident he’s going to play tonight.”
3. Balance of power
The Avalanche have been dominant on special teams in the Cup Final. Colorado is 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) on its power play and has killed 13 of 14 (92.9 percent) Tampa Bay power plays.
Failing to stop the Avalanche power play while not converting on their own has been a difficult combination for the Lightning to overcome in the series.
“We’d like to score on the power play. We’d like to be more productive,” Killorn said. “But more importantly, I think we’ve got to just keep them off the power play. They obviously have had a great power play and it seems like the way they’re going, pucks are kind of bouncing off skates and that’s what a good power play does. It puts themselves in a good chance and a good opportunity to score. So I think keep them off the power play and even if we do, we have tighten up and do a little better job getting pucks out of the zone.”
Lightning projected lineup
Ondrej Palat — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel — Anthony Cirelli — Alex Killorn
Ross Colton — Brayden Point — Nicholas Paul
Pat Maroon — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Corey Perry
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev — Zach Bogosian
Scratched: Cal Foote, Frederik Claesson, Riley Nash
Avalanche projected lineup
Artturi Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog — Nazem Kadri — Valeri Nichushkin
Alex Newhook — J.T. Compher — Logan O’Connor
Darren Helm — Andrew Cogliano — Nico Sturm
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Jack Johnson — Josh Manson
Bowen Byram — Erik Johnson
Injured: Samuel Girard (sternum), Andre Burakovsky (hand)
The Lighting held an optional morning skate. … If Burakovsky is able to play, Sturm or O’Connor likely would be scratched.
Following Siakam's path, Koloko thrilled to join Raptors: 'It's just surreal' – Sportsnet.ca
Christian Koloko has big dreams, but also plans. He couldn’t be more excited about them unfolding while wearing a Toronto Raptors uniform.
The second-round pick by the Raptors believes in himself and is confident he can out-perform his draft position as the 33rd player taken on Thursday night.
“My goal is to be a long time NBA player, to be a really good player in the NBA,” he said Friday in media conference call. “Being mentioned for multiple time all-star and just having the best career possible, because you know I kind of started playing basketball kind of late so I think the sky is the limit for me and I will continue to get better.”
But first, baby steps. Having grown up in Cameroon and finished high school in Southern California and then spent three years at the University of Arizona, he’s already ear-marked a portion of his first NBA pay cheque towards a big winter jacket, his first.
He’s seen snow once but living in a northern climate will be a new thing for the long-armed, 7-foot-1, 22-year-old.
Fortunately, Koloko has proven remarkably adaptable throughout his athletic career. Like most kids in Cameroon, Koloko grew up playing soccer – flipping between striker and goalkeeper. He played basketball only recreationally and like Raptors star Pascal Siakam, who – like Koloko — also comes from Douala, only began playing seriously in his late teens, arriving in California for his last two years of high school.
His first language was French, but he pushed himself to become quickly fluent in English, and over his career at Arizona he pushed himself to grow as a player too. He barely saw floor time as a freshman, came off the bench in his second year but in his junior year was a starter, a star, and earned multiple all-conference awards in the Pac-12.
“I think what happened was just me being confident, me believing in myself,” he said. “My first couple years at Arizona were really tough with COVID and everything. “I never really had a chance to work on my game during the summer. My first year at Arizona during the summer I was home and couldn’t do anything with the California rules, so I think I really lost that period of time.
“This year we had a new coaching staff. I came in and talked with the coaches and he told me how he wanted to use me and how he was going to help me get better. I just needed to commit to work hard and that’s what I did, and I think I was more confident this year.”
Koloko is confident he’ll be able to contribute in the NBA sooner than later, with his ability to defend at the rim and — hopefully — hold his own on the perimeter as his calling card. He’ll get his first chance when he joins the Raptors summer league team next month.
“I think I’m a really good defender,” he said. “During the game I can switch one through five and contain my guy in front of me. I probably can’t guard the point guard the whole game, but I feel comfortable during the game switching on a guard and making it hard for him to score on me. I feel like I still have room to improve, and I’ll continue to get better with that, for sure.”
He’ll have a ready-made role model and possible mentor at hand in the form of Siakam, who was an unheralded selection at No.27 in 2016 and has since turned himself from an energizing defender and chaos agent to one of the best all-round forwards in the game, twice earning all-NBA recognition.
The two have met in the previously though only in passing, but Siakam made a point of calling his new teammate on Thursday night, sharing some words of congratulations and encouragement in French.
Koloko considers Siakam’s path to the NBA from Cameroon as a template that he and others back home want to replicate.
“He [Siakam] means everything,” said Koloko. “He’s the first person from Douala to go to the NBA, to get to that level. He’s an NBA champ. He’s an NBA All-Star. This year he was in one of the All-NBA teams. He just means a lot, showing people like me that anything is possible. I think he said when he won the MIP, everything seems impossible until it’s done. That’s what he just shows people … even this year, he had the injury and came back. [He had a] pretty slow start and kept working on his game, and he showed people who he is. Just that perseverance he showed, he just means everything to the city of Douala, for sure.”
The Raptors are obviously heavily invested in Koloko reaching the upper limits of his potential. They have been tracking him since he was a 17-year-old at a Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa in 2017 and told him that he was available with the 33rd pick they would take him.
For Toronto, Koloko represents something different in that they haven’t had: a prototype of the modern big man – someone who can challenge shots at the rim defensively and be a lob threat offensively, while having the quickness to contain the ball on the perimeter.
“I mean, he’s seven foot, I’m not sure what his wingspan or standing reach is but it definitely is something that we do not have,” said Raptors general manager Bobby Webster. “We probably won’t know [when he can contribute] until we get to be around that a little bit more. But yeah, I think as far as like a seven-foot rim protector? We don’t have that.”
Koloko wants to be more than that – he wears No.35 in honour of his favourite player, Kevin Durant – but he understands that he’s got to prove his ability as a defender before his offensive responsibilities will be fully explored. That he improved so dramatically as a free-throw shooter – from 35 per cent as a freshman to 73.5 per cent as a junior– and that he has shown some dashes of playmaking while recording six assists in one game and four in two others provides room for optimism.
He watched the draft in Los Angeles, with his family, a night he won’t soon forget. To make to the NBA is one thing, but to do it while playing for Raptors vice-chairman Masai Ujiri, a legend in African basketball and alongside Siakam, a giant figure in their hometown makes it even more special.
“It was amazing. It was crazy. My family was really happy. I was happy for myself,” he says of his draft experience. “Where I’m from, it’s only me and Pascal from that city to make it this far. Even when I got to college, it was a big thing for me to get to that level. To get to the NBA, it’s just surreal. I’m just going to embrace it and continue to get better and show people that you can achieve anything if you put the work in, for sure.
“… I’ve built a really good relationship with Masai and every time I saw [people from the Raptors] they always showed love to me and having them pick me in this draft just means everything, man. I’m forever going to be thankful for them and I’m going to go out there and give everything I have for them.”
Canada's Bianca Andreescu reaches Bad Homburg final after Simona Halep withdraws – CBC Sports
Bianca Andreescu reached her first final in more than a year after Simona Halep withdrew ahead of their semifinal match at the Bad Homburg Open in Germany on Friday with a neck injury.
“I am sorry that I had to withdraw today before my semifinal match,” Halep wrote on Instagram. “But unfortunately I woke up this morning with a blocked neck and this is not allowing me to perform to the best of my ability.”
The 22-year-old Andreescu beat top-seeded Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
The Canadian’s last title win was her breakout U.S. Open victory in 2019, when she beat Serena Williams. Her last final was against Ash Barty in Miami in April 2021, when she retired with an ankle injury.
WATCH | Andreescu ousts top-seeded Kasatkina in Germany:
Andreescu, who took time off to recharge and work on her mental health, missed the Australian Open before returning to the tour in April.
While the Canadian was able to rest up and prepare for the final, Garcia had to spend close to three hours on court to beat fellow French player Alize Cornet 7-6 (9), 3-6, 7-5.
Garcia saved match point at 5-4 down in the deciding set before winning the next three games as Cornet struggled with an apparent right leg injury which restricted her movement.
Andreescu and Garcia have not met before.
WATCH | Canadian tennis star Andreescu answers questions from kids:
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