Leonardo on signing Lionel Messi for PSG: “We pulled off the only transfer of his career.”

Speaking to L’Équipe for the first time since leaving Paris Saint-Germain, former sporting director Leonardo has evaluated his three-year spell at the club, his second in that position.

He notably touches on last summer’s impressive recruitment campaign, which notably saw Lionel Messi join on a free transfer from Barcelona.

When you spoke up at the end of the season, you said “we made some errors”. Which ones?

I think we could have risen to the occasion more. There were times where we were telling ourselves it was maybe better to wait or it was better to move forward.

In terms of PR?

Not just that. On a daily basis. But then we had a transfer window last summer, remember, where everyone was happy. When three young talents arrive in Hakimi, Nuno Mendes and Donnarumma, as well as Ramos, Wijnaldum, and Messi, you tell yourself, what is this? Everyone said it. And then you lose in the Champions League last 16 and they say, “it’s rubbish, it’s the management, it’s the squad…”.

I do think there were moments of fatigue. The Covid season had an impact on the one after. I had Covid twice and there are times where I can still feel it. So yes, sometimes we maybe could have risen to the occasion more. You never know. There are times where you have to intervene and the influence is not right. There are moments where you stay out of it and something might be missing. But still: in the end, we signed Messi! You can say what you want.

Did you expect it?

No! We had thought about it, sure. We spoke about it. But Messi had never really thought about leaving. It was the final moments, before his arrival, which decided it. After that everything became a bit normal, but f*ck, you’ve pulled off Messi’s only ever transfer in his career! So yes, I thank Messi, nothing more than that. Chronologically, you have Pelé, then Maradona, then Messi. He is on the Mount Olympus of footballers. When I evaluate my three years, I see a Champions League final and semi-final, a tenth league title, seven domestic trophies and Messi’s arrival.


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