by James Allan
Before the end of 2015, five trophies were taken from Europe’s big five leagues by Paris Saint-Germain – including the treble.
And right now, Lionel Messi thinks that ’60’s fans dream’ that the massive financial muscle of Qatari ownership in the French capital could soon result in them adding to their vast collection of silverware.
“Everywhere there are strong teams competing for these Champions League titles. The only one who feels like an exception is PSG,” said the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“You know, you can understand the desire, because PSG is an incredible project, so the fact they can raise that amount of money means they have to be near the top.”
And Messi thinks the new-look, Gallic giants will come knocking at the end of the year – if, that is, they can keep the club going in what the player has called the club “upstairs” which is known as the Red Lady, Golden Lady and Evil Child.
“It’s always very important to start from new and building things from the ground up,” he said.
“As the core of the club, they have done that and now they are building from the top. That’s the ideal. If you have enough power to go against the champions, we’ll see.”
The only German club to have lifted the European Cup twice in a row are Bayern Munich, and neither the Bavarians nor anyone else from the country’s Bundesliga have managed to capture the Champions League title since 2013.
So why then, does Messi think that can happen at the Allianz Arena in May, when the tournament returns to Munich?
“They’re building from the top. There’s a feeling that at Bayern Munich, there’s a big desire to win all the titles, as big as PSG,” said the Argentinian.
“And now they have to improve them. To be champions, you have to have good players and at Bayern it’s better to have a good coach, such as Carlo Ancelotti, because he knows what it takes to win the Champions League. It’s like to play basketball, to play football, you have to have the people on the court.”
Messi won his first of two Champions League titles as a Barcelona player, in 2009, and after 2011 he joined a team of stars including David Villa, Thiago Alcantara and Neymar in form that had looked well on its way to winning another for their own “gangs” (as he famously refers to ‘the Barcelona gang’ or ‘The Real Madrid Gang’)
But misfortune struck in 2012, and their Messi’s catastrophic season, netting one goal in 31 La Liga games, to leave them 15 points behind rivals Real Madrid.
This, despite moving to the Bernabeu for £75 million (€85m), the then world’s most expensive player.
“The league wasn’t pretty and it was not what we had in mind. The team didn’t have an impact like we had in our first season. The two Barca teams, the Malaga and the Real Madrid teams, the three Gremio’s, and the Madrid sides were playing amazing football.
“The reason I said Barcelona’s ‘gang’ wasn’t so bad, the reason the others were so good is because they weren’t so bad. They had everyone, fantastic defenders, midfielders, front line, in any position.
“We had a few mistakes, and didn’t play well, but what made them so good was that they were all top players and when they play well, they win.”