Messi and Mbappe versus the A-League? PSG could make All Stars visit

Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé could be bound for Sydney later this year after Paris Saint-Germain’s elimination from the UEFA Champions League put them in the frame for a trip to face the A-League All Stars.

Sources familiar with plans for the next edition of the A-League All Stars match, who were speaking on the condition of anonymity, said PSG has become the primary target of the Australian Professional Leagues as they search for a high-profile opponent to come to Australia in late May.

Thursday morning’s (AEDT) defeat to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League’s round of 16 marks the end of PSG’s run in Europe – which means the French Ligue 1 club suddenly has gap in their diary at the end of the season.

That is when the All Stars extravaganza is planned to be held, forming part of a ‘festival of football’ that will also include the A-League Men grand final, which was controversially sold by the APL to Sydney for the next three years.

The presence of Messi, who helped Argentina put the Socceroos to the sword at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, and Mbappé, the French superstar, would almost certainly ensure another huge crowd at Accor Stadium, where more than 70,000 people watched the All Stars lose 3-2 to Barcelona.

That night was a handy money-spinner for the APL, and also helped launch the career of Socceroos sensation Garang Kuol, who put himself on the radar of European clubs with his eye-catching performance against Barcelona, earning warm praise from their coach Xavi Hernandez.

Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé could be coming to Australia – if they stay at PSG, and if A-Leagues execuives can get a deal done.Credit:Getty

Still reeling from the fallout of their grand final deal with Destination NSW and the ugly events of the Melbourne derby pitch invasion, the APL is in desperate need of a big cash injection from ticket sales and the feel-good factor from what would be Messi’s third (and almost certainly final) playing visit to Australia.

But sources say there is still much to play out before any deal is inked – particularly in Paris, with the Qatar-owned club’s latest Champions League failure increasing speculation about imminent exits for Messi, 35, who has been linked to Major League Soccer team Inter Miami, and Mbappé, 24, to Real Madrid.

Neymar, the other member of PSG’s big-name trio, is out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury and wouldn’t make the trip if confirmed.

Any deal would almost certainly be contingent on a guarantee from PSG that Messi or Mbappé, or both, would play in the match – as well as an agreeable price.

Garang Kuol holds off Barcelona’s Adama Traore in May’s friendly in Sydney.Credit:Getty

The APL’s discussions with PSG are now expected to ramp up, but other clubs like Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Napoli and Inter Milan may yet come into the picture if they lose their second-leg Champions League quarter-final matches next week.

The APL effectively had an agreement with Bayern Munich already in place, but it fell through due to their progression into the Champions League’s final eight.

Nothing is expected to be signed for at least the next few weeks in any case, with the NSW Government in caretaker mode ahead of the election on March 25 and unable to commit funds until after that time.

The All Stars concept is not a universal hit with A-League fans – especially if, like last year, players from the two grand final teams can’t be involved – but it is a huge conversion play for the APL in their ambition to convince the many Australians who watch European football via streaming services to start following the domestic competition.

Many sceptics were won over by last year’s all-action showdown with Barcelona, as a host of unheralded Australian players acquitted themselves well under All Stars coach Dwight Yorke.

Watch every match of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League on Stan Sport.

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