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Lionel Messi Is Reportedly Joining Paris Saint-Germain

Lionel Messi, one of the greatest soccer players in history, is leaving Spain to join French club Paris Saint-Germain, in a seismic shift in elite soccer. Word emerged just last week that Messi, 34, was parting with his longtime club, FC Barcelona.

Messi's father, Jorge, confirmed the pending deal to the Spanish newspaper La Sexta Tuesday at Barcelona's El Prat airport, saying the Argentine legend will sign a deal for two seasons, with an option for a third.

Messi is flying to France Tuesday, and he'll formally sign a contract that will be announced on Wednesday if he passes a preliminary physical exam, according to the French sports paper L'Equipe.

Recognized as the world's best player with a record six Ballon d'Or awards, Messi is poised to be reunited in Paris with Brazilian star Neymar Jr, as they hope to reprise the success they had together during Neymar's stint in Barcelona.

Paris Saint-Germain — often known simply as PSG — also has another star player in Kylian Mbappé, who is just 22. But questions have swirled about his future, as contract talks have lingered.

Messi announced last week that he would be leaving Barcelona as a free agent after the two sides failed to reach a new contract — a process complicated by new limits on payrolls in Spain's soccer league, La Liga. The star and his team couldn't finalize the extension, despite Messi originally agreeing to a 50% pay cut.

Both La Liga and France's Ligue 1 want to cap their clubs' payroll spending at no more than 70% of their overall revenue. But while that policy is now taking hold in Spain, the French league has postponed its salary cap for two years, citing financial turmoil caused by the pandemic.

That delay is now seen as a key reason that the Qatar-owned PSG was able to land a generational talent.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.