French league season unfurls, fans await Messi’s PSG debut


PARIS—Negotiations on Lionel Messi’s contract with Paris Saint-Germain took just a few days. Expect a longer wait for his debut.

The 34-year-old Argentina star had just returned from vacation when Barcelona announced it couldn’t afford to keep him, opening the door for PSG. Messi is now under contract for at least two seasons in the French capital.

Messi told a news conference recently that it’s up to PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino when he plays, but noted he’s had “no real training sessions” for a month. He participated in training on Thursday.

“I hope it will be as soon as possible,” he said at the news conference. “I can’t give you a date. It will depend on the training and how it feels and when the coaches think I’m ready.”

After spending his career at Barcelona, Messi said he’s looking forward to “discovering new teams and new stadiums” in Ligue 1.

The wait is on. Meanwhile, the French league season enters its second round this weekend.

Messi’s new team hosts Strasbourg on Saturday night at Parc des Princes stadium. Messi is expected to be presented to the 50,000 faithful before kickoff.

PSG striker Mauro Icardi, who could eventually lose playing time to countryman Messi, scored in the season-opening 2-1 win last Saturday over promoted Troyes. New defender Achraf Hakimi, who joined from Italian champion Inter Milan for 60 million euros ($70.5 million), also scored.

Pochettino wasn’t happy with his team’s defending last week but Strasbourg doesn’t figure to be a roadblock for a PSG team intent on reclaiming the French title this season.

The second round begins Friday when Lorient hosts Monaco, which was held 1-1 by Nantes last week.

Monaco midfielder Aleksandr Golovin will be available after exiting Tuesday night’s game against Sparta Prague with an ankle problem. The Russia international had scored in the 3-1 victory in Champions League qualifying.

“Aleksandr is in good shape and will be available against Lorient,” Monaco coach Niko Kovac told reporters Thursday.

Kovac will need to manage minutes, however, with Monaco facing Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday in the Champions League playoffs.

“It’s important to make changes during the game,” Kovac said of the Lorient clash. “There’s a difference when a player plays 60 minutes or 90 minutes. I need to give minutes to all the players and allow them to recover.”

Monaco captain Wissam Ben Yedder will be looking for his first goal of the season after netting 22 in the last campaign.

Image courtesy of AP

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