It felt like a state occasion. The dozens of police vans, the cordoned off roads and the hundreds of cameras feeding every movement to television sets around the world.
The sort of ceremony reserved for royalty and, to the adoring masses outside the Parc des Princes, every second of this was a coronation.
Lionel Messi only stepped onto the street for 60 seconds but that was enough time for the thousands of fans to anoint him the new king of Paris. He walked a few metres out of his blacked-out Mercedes van to wave to his new supporters, signalling the beginning of a new chapter for French football.
Lionel Messi waves to fans as he edges closer to completing his move to Paris Saint-Germain
‘Messi est Paris!’ they chanted, as the Rue du Commandant Guilabud went up in a puff of multi-coloured smoke.
Flares were lit as locals climbed upon bins, fences or whatever they could find for a better vantage point. The police had even told children to move away from the front to avoid the inevitable crush.
‘This is the biggest signing we’ve ever made,’ said one supporter, squeezed in to catch a glimpse. ‘Messi is the best in the world. With Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, we’re going to win the Champions League. Paris is going to be the centre of the football universe.’
Hundreds of fans waited for a glimpse of Messi as he touched down in Paris on Tuesday
Flares were lit as locals climbed upon bins and fences to get a better vantage point of Messi
The dozens of police vans and the cordoned off roads made it feel like a state occasion
On Tuesday afternoon, that is exactly what it felt like outside the Parc de Princes. A suburb that would typically be quiet on a Tuesday afternoon was bustling with news crews from everywhere from Iran to South Africa to Japan.
Opposite the stadium, the club shop had its busiest day of the summer. In the world’s fashion capital, that blue polyester top suddenly became the hottest item in town. Although you will have to wait until Wednesday to have Messi’s name printed on the back.
Neymar appeared to confirm Lionel Messi will complete a transfer to PSG on Instagram
‘We’re not allowed to sell them yet,’ said the shop assistants at lunchtime, as word got out about the new arrival.
‘Back together,’ wrote Neymar on Instagram, early in the afternoon, unable to keep the secret.
The club posted a teaser on their Twitter account, showing six Ballon d’Ors – the amount Messi has won – in front of the Eiffel Tower and a space in the dressing room between Neymar and Mbappe. As the news spread, the fans gathered, waiting impatiently for his arrival.
Many arrived in the morning and spent hours chanting him name before Messi finally turned up around 7pm local time. The crowd grew from 10s to 100s to 1000s as the rumours turned into reality.
There were Argentina shirts, Barcelona shirts and even some from Rosario’s Newell’s Old Boys. One young couple from Holland spent the first day of their honeymoon waiting around outside the stadium. ‘Once we saw the news on Twitter, we couldn’t miss it,’ they said.
In the early afternoon, Messi was pictured at Barcelona airport alongside his wife Antonella and their three children, Thiago, eight, Mateo, five, and Ciro, three, earlier on Tuesday.
Messi was all smiles on a private jet alongside wife Antonella as they boarded a flight to Paris
Antonella, wearing a Versace top, later posted a selfie alongside her husband as they sat on their private jet waiting to fly to their new home.
Messi was wearing an Adidas t-shirt but the next time he was seen, after landing into Bourget airport at around 3pm, he had changed into a different top with ‘Ici c’est Paris’ printed across the front.
He was escorted to a local hospital for his medical, before arriving at the stadium to a frenzy of screams, sirens and whistles. And then, in a flash, he was gone, whisked away to his new home. The coronation was complete.