• Each week, 20 Minutes gives the floor to a sports actor or actress who is making the news.

    Make way for Guillem Balagué, close to Lionel Messi and the first to have announced his very likely extension in Paris. 

  • the biography of the Agentin written by the Spanish journalist was released in French version by Hugo Sport last October. 

  • For

    20 Minutes

    , he talks about Messi's complicated adaptation to PSG but assures that the six-time Ballon d'Or now feels at home in Paris. 

Close to Leo Messi and his clan, Guillem Balague, the author of a biography of La Pulga, published by Hugo Sport and translated into French last October, is one of the journalists who best knows the number 30 of Paris Saint Germain.

While the Argentinian's extension is in the pipeline, as he had announced for several weeks, Guillem Balague agreed for

20 Minutes

to return to the player's return to the fore since the start of the season and his adaptation in the French capital. 

After a first Parisian season far from its standards, we found the real Leo Messi since August.

Were you surprised to see him at such a level when many doubted his ability to come back to the fore?

Honestly, I understand that people may have doubted because they don't see the context that surrounds the player on a daily basis, the way he lives at home, what he can feel.

Me, knowing him, I could see, just by looking at his face, that he was not well during his first season at PSG.

In addition, he arrived injured, out of shape and he contracted a very severe Covid in the process (early January 2022), his lungs were affected, he could hardly continue his efforts.

We talked about it a lot, Messi still experienced a total upheaval in the summer of 2021, did he just need time to recover from his departure from Barça?

Yes, absolutely.

You are comfortable in your environment, you have long since found your balance, and suddenly everything changes.

He told me at the time that he assured his children that he was going to stay at Barça, that the whole little family was going to stay in Barcelona, ​​he even did a photo shoot with the club's new jersey, and eventually everything changed.

So it's normal that when everything collapsed around him, it took him a long time to recover, it doesn't happen overnight.

The change in the children's lives, school in Paris, an hour's drive for Leo to go to training, an hour to return.

He went from a very orderly, very simple life to something much more chaotic.

Anyone in his place would have been impacted by this situation.

But today it's fine,

He is happy in Paris?

Yes totally, sincerely.

Again, it shows on his face.

Leo can't hide his feelings and today we can see him well, happy, on and off the pitch, he plays in a more liberated way, his teammates have understood the way to play with him, the ball passes much more by him today.

But what changed everything was above all his personal life.

He found a house, he really feels at home, and that's the most important thing.

Antonella works a lot and feels very well in Paris, the children love their life here and learn French every day.

They speak it with their father at home to teach him a bit of the language.

Admittedly, it's not Castelldefels, there's no beach, etc., but they all feel very good, they've found their balance.

The agreement between Paris Saint-Germain and Leo Messi is about to be finalized.

They are planning a meeting in the coming weeks to finalize the deal.

✍🏽🇦🇷 #PSG 🔴🔵 (Guillem Balague) [📸 PSG] pic.twitter.com/YtoiGTzA4V

— Paris Inside • PSG (@ParisInside_) January 13, 2023

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That's why before the World Cup, I announced that Leo was more likely to extend in Paris than to leave at the end of his contract.

Obviously he wanted to wait to see what would happen in Qatar and he didn't want to make a hasty decision, but that was his feeling before the World Cup.

Today he is convinced that he can win the Champions League with PSG and he also aims to win his eighth Ballon d'Or.

And even if nothing is official yet, PSG and Messi have agreed to a one-year extension, plus another optional season.

At the end of December, Joan Laporta said he would like Messi to return to Barca.

Has the club tried anything?

Absolutely not.

First of all, and I talk about it in my book, Messi didn't like the way it ended with the club at all.

Today there is no longer any relationship with Laporta, I know that intermediaries between the two clans still tried to build bridges and restore the channel of discussion, but he doesn't want to hear about it.

Contrary to what we heard before the World Cup, there is no plan for Barça to bring Messi back, only words.

I know Xavi would like to see him back, Laporta too, but at the moment there is nothing.

On the other hand, what I know is that Messi wants to stay in Europe and that he favors PSG.

Let's come back to Paris, precisely.

What did he think of the appointment of Christophe Galtier, a coach not necessarily known internationally?

When there is a change of coach, Messi is not in nostalgia for the old but in pragmatism.

There may be a moment of doubt, of course, but he will analyze the profile of the new coach, the way he wants him to play, and see if it can stick or not.

And the system that Galtier wanted to put in place when he arrived immediately pleased Leo.

Afterwards, you have to understand that there is almost no coach in the world who can tell Leo what to do on the pitch.

He knows it himself.

There, it was a bit the same at the start of the season.

Galtier listened to him a lot, they talked a lot about how Leo wanted to evolve, or did he feel comfortable, and the two finally found themselves on a lot of points.

In a paper for

Le Parisien

, you mentioned a fine tactician Messi.

To the point of getting involved in these issues with the coach and the staff? 

No, even if he can sometimes give his opinion when the coach asks him to, he is not the type to then intervene in the tactical reflections of a coach and his staff or with his teammates in the locker room.

But when you talk about football with him, you realize his knowledge of the game, he analyzes well and very quickly, he watches a lot of matches, mainly the Argentinian and Spanish championship.

That's why I think that once his career is over, he will stay in football, but more as a sporting director than as a coach because he is above all someone who knows how to recognize talent in others. 

What is his role in the locker room in Paris? 

Already, it must be said, the PSG locker room is very complicated (laughs)!

It's very complicated for a coach to manage to maintain a balance and to satisfy everyone.

In all this, Leo still managed to find his place but without ever getting out of his role, they let the other leaders, captain Marquinhos, Sergio Ramos or Mbappé speak. 

How did he experience

the bronca du Parc

, mainly against him and Neymar last season after elimination against Real? 

He was surprised, disappointed, resigned.

People were looking for culprits and taking shortcuts without really analyzing the responsibilities of each other.

The problem at PSG is that it's victory in the Champions League or disaster, everything is perceived through this prism and a premature elimination immediately becomes a disaster.

However, the two best PSG matches last season were against Real Madrid in the first leg, and at the Bernabeu for an hour.

Afterwards, what happens is football.

More than the reaction of the fans, I think that the problem of PSG is to focus only on winning the Champions League, it's an obsession and I think it's the only club in Europe that works like this.

Therefore, in case of failure, the rejection of the supporters is violent. 

He still does not come to greet the ultras at the end of the matches, just like Neymar.

We feel that the fracture is deep...

The pill hasn't passed yet.

What they experienced last season after Madrid, the whistles of their own public, it was something very hard to live with.

So it's normal to have trouble falling in love with an audience that didn't want to understand that you needed time to adapt to Paris, to your new life, to this never-before-seen attack trio. in the history of football.

But I'm sure that can change. 

As the match against Bayern in the Champions League approaches

This is an opportunity to remember the sublime cracking of the Auteuil stand which amazed Messi

The atmosphere of the Parc Des Princes on European evenings is magical ✨

pic.twitter. com/50ldzj8MAr

— KYKY (@aws_gms) January 14, 2023

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What does he think of the atmosphere of the Park? 

He is completely hallucinating!

This was already the case the day he arrived at the airport, when he stuck his head out to greet the public and there were thousands of them, in the rain, to welcome him with flags and drums.

And it's true that the atmosphere at the Parc des Princes has nothing to do with what he experienced for almost 15 years at Camp Nou and he loves it.

This noise, these smells of smoke, it's something very anchored in Argentine culture and I know that he gets a kick out of playing in this stadium.


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  • Soccer

  • Sport

  • Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG)

  • Lionel Messi