Lionel Messi was forced to make his Paris Saint-Germain debut from the bench on Monday morning (AEST) as the French heavyweights dispatched Reims 2-0.
While Messi’s first turnout in PSG colours following his bombshell move from Barcelona was the story of the day, it was Kylian Mbappe who stole the show in a two-goal performance.
Mbappe, rumoured to be going to Real Madrid at the end of the season, scored in the 16th and 63rd minutes to set up the win.
Messi, meanwhile, was held back until about 25 minutes left when he replaced his old Barcelona teammate Neymar and the travelling PSG fans went wild.
Messi was unable to notch a goal or an assist in his short time on the field but there were early signs that he will gel well with Mbappe with the pair linking up regularly.
Nonetheless, fans have been made left to wait before seeing a dream front three of Messi-Mbappe-Neymar in action.
Neymar sat on bench there looking as if he'd just realised the down side of PSG signing Messi.
— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) August 29, 2021
Mbappé has been looking for Messi every time he's touched the ball, similar to how he was with Benzema at the Euros. it's adorable how star-struck he gets.
— Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt) August 29, 2021
After the match, Messi was asked by Reims players to have photos with their children, and the Argentinian was happy to oblige.
The Argentine had not played since arriving in Paris from Barcelona almost three weeks ago, his last appearance in any game dating back to the Copa America final on July 11, when he led his country to victory against Brazil.
🚨⚽️ | NEW: Reims players were taking pictures of their children with Leo Messi after tonight’s game pic.twitter.com/clo195bErS
— Football For All (@FootballlForAll) August 29, 2021
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner will have to wait for his first goal with his new club, and his first start, which could come when PSG host Clermont in their next match on September 11.
After that they will begin their Champions League campaign away to Club Brugge in Belgium.
The week leading up to this game had been dominated not by Messi but by talk of Mbappe’s future, with Real Madrid reportedly having two offers for the France World Cup-winning striker rejected.
The latest of these offers was understood to be worth 180 million euros ($212m), an astronomical amount for a player whose contract expires at the end of the season and who will be free to negotiate a deal with a new club in January without PSG being able to get a transfer fee.
That amount is also equal to what PSG paid Monaco in 2017 to sign Mbappe, who was clearly eager to go out on a high if this was to be his final appearance for the club.
With the transfer deadline looming on Tuesday, the 22-year-old did not appear remotely distracted by the talk of a move as he headed in a glorious Angel Di Maria cross in the 15th minute to put the away side in front.
Mbappe then scored his second of the night, and third of the season, just after the hour mark, finishing off an inviting low cross to the back post by Achraf Hakimi.
– All-star attack –
Reims were once France’s pre-eminent club, twice reaching the European Cup final in 1956 and 1959, but it is a long time since the footballing spotlight has been on the city, which lies 150 kilometres north-east of Paris in the Champagne region, to such an extent.
The home side, whose coach Oscar Garcia played for Barcelona in the 1990s, had what they thought was an equalising goal by Zimbabwe’s Marshall Munetsi early in the second half disallowed for offside.
They put up a good fight but the chances of any team in France stopping PSG — even if Mbappe departs — are slim.
Neymar started, making his first appearance of the season, while Di Maria also played in an all-star attack in Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
The Qatar-owned club are the only team in Ligue 1 with the maximum 12 points after four games and they lie two points clear of surprise package Angers, who had earlier beaten Rennes 2-0.
Also on Sunday, defending champions Lille recorded their first victory of the Ligue 1 campaign as Yusuf Yazici and Canada’s Jonathan David scored in a 2-1 win over 10-man Montpellier.
Monaco bounced back from their elimination from the Champions League in the play-off round in midweek to win 2-1 at Troyes, Sofiane Diop’s brace securing their first victory of the Ligue 1 season.