Lionel Messi was interested in joining Atletico Madrid before his transfer to Paris Saint-Germain was completed, according to reports in Spain.
Messi was officially unveiled as a PSG player on Tuesday evening after he signed a two-year contract with the option of a further year.
The 34-year-old will wear the No30 shirt for the French club and line up alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in the coming seasons.
The move came about after his attempts to extend his 21-year stay with boyhood club Barcelona fell apart due to financial restrictions.
Barca had initially offered their greatest ever player a new contract with 50 per cent reduced wages but La Liga’s salary cap eventually forced them to admit defeat.
The Catalan club announced last Thursday that Messi was leaving before the man himself held an emotional press conference on Sunday to explain the situation.
PSG swooped quickly to sign him up on a reported £21million yearly salary, while they also handed him a £21m signing-on fee.
However, it appears PSG were not the only club in the picture for the Argentina international.
While it was Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side who explored the possibility of signing Messi last summer amid fraught relationships at Barca, it was Atletico Madrid who were interested this time around.
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According to Spanish journalist Ignacio Miguélez, Atleti manager Diego Simeone reached out personally to offer Messi the chance to join the club.
With his close friend and former Barcelona team-mate Luis Suarez already there, Messi’s family ‘seriously considered the option’, only for PSG to persuade him otherwise.
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has long wanted Messi to join his club and he and sporting director Leonardo had to move quickly to open talks with the forward’s father, Jorge.
It is easy to see why Messi might be tempted to play alongside Suarez once more, beyond their close friendship.
Following Suarez’s £75m move to Barca from Liverpool in 2014, the duo struck up a brilliant strike partnership, scoring a combined total of 478 goals between them before the Uruguayan’s move to Atleti last year.
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Their partnership was a key factor in Barca winning 13 trophies, including four La Liga titles and one Champions League, during that period.
Instead, Messi’s connection with fellow Argentines Mauricio Pochettino and Angel Di Maria proved important in convincing him to move to Paris.
Like Simeone, PSG manager Pochettino spoke personally to Messi to reassure him of his plans, while Di Maria was the player who scored Argentina’s crucial goal in their 1-0 Copa America final win over rivals Brazil in July.
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