Lionel Messi made his Paris Saint-Germain debut as a substitute on Sunday, but Kylian Mbappe seized the spotlight by netting both goals in a 2-0 win against Reims in Ligue 1.
Messi, carrying the number 30 shirt, came off the bench in the 66th minute to substitute Neymar at the Stade Auguste-Delaune, where supporters screamed his title as he appeared to limber up.
The Argentine had not played since almost three weeks ago, when he arrived in Paris from Barcelona, his last participation in any game dating back to the Copa America final on July 11, when he led his team to victory over Brazil.
The six-time winner of Ballon d’Or will have to wait until his first club goal and his first start, which may be when Clermont will be hosting PSG in his next game on 11 September.
“He made his debut, I’m extremely glad. For him it was very essential, “After Messi’s first low-key performance in a PSG shirt, PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino told broadcaster Amazon Prime.
“He’s still distant from his greatest condition, but he’s trained hard and in two weeks’ time after the international recess he’ll be healthy and yeah, we’re looking forward to his best.”
The week preceding up to this game had been overshadowed not by Messi but by speculation over Mbappe’s destiny, with Real Madrid allegedly having rebuffed two bids for the World Cup-winning forward from France.
The most recent of these bids were said to be worth 180 million euros ($212 million), an exorbitant sum for a player whose contract runs out at the end of the term and who would be free to sign a new contract with a new club in January without PSG being able to receive a transfer budget.
That sum is also the same as what PSG paid Monaco in 2017 to get Mbappe, who was clearly keen to leave the club on a good note if this was to be his final performance.
With the acquisition deadline approaching on Tuesday, the 22-year-old did not appear to be bothered by the rumors of a move as he headed in a magnificent Angel Di Maria cross in the 15th minute to put the away side ahead.
Just after the hour mark, Mbappe scored his second goal of the night and third of the season, tapping off an enticing low shot to the back post by Achraf Hakimi.
“Kylian is our player, and you know that there is always talk and speculations in football and in business,” Pochettino said of Mbappe.
“I believe our president and athletic director were quite clear, and he is still here.” I am overjoyed to have Kylian.
“He is one of the finest and most significant players in the world today, and having him among us is a blessing.”
Reims was formerly France’s pre-eminent club, reaching the European Cup final twice in 1956 and 1959, but it has been a long time since the footballing spotlight has shone so brightly on the city, 150 kilometers north-east of Paris in the Champagne region.
The host team’s coach, Oscar Garcia, starred for Barcelona in the 1990s, had what they believed was an equalizing goal by Zimbabwe’s Marshall Munetsi disallowed for offside early in the second half.
They put up a strong fight, but the odds of any French team stopping PSG, even if Mbappe leaves, are minimal.
Neymar began his first game of the season, while Di Maria was also part of an all-star assault.
They are the only club in Ligue 1 with a maximum of 12 points after four games, and they are two points ahead of Angers, who defeated Rennes 2-0.
Defending champions Lille won their first Ligue 1 game of the season, defeating Montpellier 2-1 with two goals from Yusuf Yazici and Jonathan David.
Monaco won 2-1 against Troyes after being eliminated from the Champions League in the play-off round in midweek, with Sofiane Diop’s brace sealing their first league victory of the year.