Paris Saint-Germain made a phenomenal start to their Ligue 1 title defence on Saturday evening thanks to Lionel Messi's brilliance.
The Argentine scored twice and set another goal up to give PSG a 5-0 away win against Clermont Foot. The Parisian club are under new management this term after former Lille boss Christophe Galtier succeeded Mauricio Pochettino at the Parc de Princes.Messi has come under criticism since his free transfer from Barcelona to PSG last summer. He struggled to make an impact in Ligue 1 during his debut season, scoring just six goals. In comparison, he found the net 30 times in La Liga during his final term at Barcelona.
Yet Messi has hit the ground running this season. He scored in PSG's 4-0 win against Nantes last weekend to lift the Trophee des Champions - also known as the French Super Cup - and made an even greater impact in PSG's first Ligue 1 fixture of the campaign.
Messi needed just nine minutes to make his mark, flicking a low cross into the path of Neymar to make it 1-0. Another two goals followed before Messi, who is hoping to win the World Cup with Argentina later this year, ended the game with a brilliant brace.
In the 80th minute, the little magician picked up the ball just inside the opposition's half and started running at a weary defence. He skipped past one challenge and found Neymar, who unselfishly squared a pass back to Messi to make it 4-0 to PSG.
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Then came the goal of the night. Leandro Paredes spotted Messi running into the box and chipped the ball into a space for his teammate to attack. With his back to goal, Messi controlled the ball on his chest and chipped the goalkeeper with an overhead kick.Messi's name was chanted by the home supporters before the end of the night, a stark contrast to the end of last season when he booed by PSG fans. He will be hoping his stellar start to the season is a sign of things to come over the next 10 months.
Speaking in June, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi backed Messi to have the best season of his career to date. That will take some doing, as the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner scored an unprecedented 73 goals for Barcelona during the 2011-12 campaign.
"There is no doubt that Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d'Or a record seven times, and it was not his best season," Al-Khelaifi told Le Parisien. "But after more than 20 years in Barcelona, he discovered a new country, a new city, a new league, a new team.
"A new culture. As well as his family, and he was injured also by the coronavirus. It was not easy for Messi last season, but next season we will see the best version of Messi ever."
Success for Messi this season will be winning a fifth European Cup and/or the World Cup in Qatar. The latter is the one major trophy that continues to elude him and, at 35, this year's tournament is likely to be his last chance of lifting the famous honour.