How candid can Neymar and Lionel Messi be? Turns out not so much. Not on their own, at least. After the latest revelations made public by Le Parisien, the meeting at the end of the game against Bayern Munich last week was all a staged farce forced to be carried out by the president of PSG, Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
After the final whistle on PSG's defeat to Bayern Munich (0-1) in the first leg of the Champions League last-16, all eyes were on the Paris Saint-Germain players as they crossed the pitch to meet the Collectif Ultras Paris. There were two unexpected members of the team making the short trip: Lionel Messi and Neymar, oft-hated by the Ultras.
This gesture by the two South American superstars, even more coming after a huge blow in the defeat to Bayern, was seen as a real step forward in the relationship between Messi, Neymar, and the Collectif Ultras Paris.
Turns out that it had nearly no real meaning at all, according to the information obtained and leaked by Le Parisien on Thursday. This was all engineered by PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who is very aware of looking good in the public sphere and wants to always paint the rosiest possible picture of his affairs.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi forced his superstars to engage with the PSG Ultras at the end of the Bayern game
After a heated exchange after the game at Monaco (coming off a midweek defeat at the hands of Olympique Marseille and the consequential elimination from the Coupe de France, no less) between players and supporters of the team, Al-Khelaifi arrived at the Camp des Loges for the last training session before facing Bayern Munich in the Champions League at the Parc des Princes.
According to Le Parisien, the president "had strong words for his players" on the eve of the decisive match against the Bavarians. Al-Khelaifi was "advocating the sacred union of the squad along with the supporters" at a "pivotal moment" in the Parisian season. According to the honcho, "dissension must give way to reconciliation with the faithful of the Parc des Princes," writes Le Parisien.
Al-Khelaifi "made it clear" to Neymar, Messi, and their teammates that "they must meet the Ultras," after the game against Bayern Munich no matter how the match ends. In the eyes of the president, tells Le Parisien, "positive relations between the team and its fans are essential and can only be beneficial to a club that is not always focused on their supporters."
It was the first time since March 2022 that Neymar and Lionel Messi went in the direction of Auteuil to meet the members of the Collectif Ultras Paris.
Sunday afternoon, after the narrow win (4-3) against Lille, there were still many to thank the Ultras, including Messi (Neymar left the game injured and wasn't present at the end of it).
Whether you believe that has any real meaning or not, is up to you. One thing is clear, though, and it is that the president would sleep tight as long as the camera keeps throwing you his superstars meeting the fans at the end of games without much care about whether they're doing it because they want to or just because they are forced to.