- Argentine about to hit free agency
- Has spent two years in France
- Jeered by supporters at times
WHAT HAPPENED? A two-year spell at Parc des Princes is coming to a close for the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, with the decision taken not to extend his contract. Messi will now be hitting free agency, with an emotional return to Barcelona seemingly on the cards. The Argentine icon did not enjoy the best of times in France, with disgruntled supporters turning against him, but Herrera says the South American’s team-mates and all of those behind the scenes at PSG consider it an honour to have worked with the all-time great.
WHAT THEY SAID: Spain international midfielder Herrera, who left the French capital for Athletic Club in the summer of 2022, has told ESPN: “I had a great time in Paris. It was fun. I got together a lot with Leo Paredes, with Angel Di Maria, with Leo Messi - also because our partners got along well and we got together a lot, we ate, we laughed. Neymar is also a super cheerful boy, a phenomenon, and Marco [Verratti] - there is not a person in the world who speaks ill of him as a footballer and as a guy. And the truth is that I had a great time. I got there from Manchester, where I had been with [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, with [Paul] Pogba, with [Wayne] Rooney, and suddenly finding yourself in a locker room like this from another place can be difficult. But it became normal. There is enormous respect for Leo. He has the respect of everyone because Leo is something else, he is unique in history, a guy who has seven Ballon d'Ors. The way he behaves, the respect with which he treats everybody at the club, crazy.”
Herrera added on the leadership qualities of the 2022 World Cup winner that he spent one year playing alongside in Paris: “Messi doesn't need to make you feel it, there are people who lead by example, by the way they act and develop themselves. And Leo is one of those silent leaders, who doesn't need to talk a lot to know what you have to give or why he is the important one on the team.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Messi faced jeers towards the end of his time at PSG, despite becoming a two-time Ligue 1 title winner, with Herrera attempting to explain why a demanding fan base took issue with a player that many expected to be treated as a hero. Herrera said of the whistles: “In the end, the one who whistles is the one who pays his subscription and you have the right to do so. [But] It surprises me, I've been with him for a year and he's the best I've seen in my life as a player and as a guy, because of the way he acts on a day-to-day basis. I admired him from before, and after playing with him I admire him even more. Of course it is surprising, but Paris is a special place to experience from within: the demands are very high, it feels like you are never doing enough. I think it is the only team in Europe in which a season where you don't win the Champions League is considered a failure.”
IN THREE PHOTOS:Getty Images
WHAT NEXT? Messi is currently in the process of mulling over his options as he prepares to sever ties with PSG, with the 35-year-old being linked with clubs in MLS and the Middle East as well as La Liga champions Barca.