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A footballer's guide to Paris: where Messi will be living, shopping and dining in the French capital

Antonela and Lionel Messi; the new Samaritaine store; the €4 million house Messi might live in; Restaurant Girafe  - Getty
Antonela and Lionel Messi; the new Samaritaine store; the €4 million house Messi might live in; Restaurant Girafe - Getty

Not all cities are created equal, particularly if you’ve got £400,000 a week to spend. Paris, with its lavish department stores, ornate apartment buildings, Michelin-starred restaurants, luxury hotels, and bars filled with both vintage champagne and not-so-vintage supermodels, is probably the greatest footballer’s playground on earth.

Today, Lionel Messi, his wife Antonela and his three young sons boarded a plane from Barcelona to Paris. The footballer is allegedly devastated to be leaving the Spanish city, but he can take comfort in the fact a world of glamour awaits in the French capital.

Messi will already know Paris is home to the most luxurious establishments on earth – and while it can feel famously impenetrable when you first visit, once you’ve got the hang of the complex cultural codes around what to eat, wear and say, it is an absolute delight to live in. Better yet, wages of £25 million a year after tax mean that the new PSG star can probably ignore every rule going, and still be welcomed by Parisian society with open arms.

Here, we’ve put together a guide to where one of the richest men in sport might be sleeping, eating, drinking and shopping once he settles into local life.

Where he’ll live

A €4 million house near Parc des Princes - Residences Immobilier 
A €4 million house near Parc des Princes - Residences Immobilier

In 2016, Messi bought a six-bedroom apartment in the 16th arrondissement – the South Kensington of Paris, where old French families live in parquet-floor flats overlooking Avenue Victor Hugo, and embassies rub shoulders with sleek shopping streets. It also has the benefit of being on western side of the city, and therefore offers a quick commute to the Parc des Princes, PSG’s training ground.

Messi’s apartment is in the Villa Montmorency. A stone’s throw from Lenny Kravitz’s house, this vast mansion has been converted into luxury flats with a shared garden. The footballer paid over €8 million for the property and while living there would be the stuff of dreams for the majority of Parisians, once the Messis are installed full-time, they’ll probably start looking for something bigger.

Potential neighbours Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni - Getty/Getty
Potential neighbours Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni - Getty/Getty

Unlike Londoners, most Parisians – including the extremely wealthy – live in apartments; if you want a house with a garden, you likely need to leave the city walls for the surrounding towns. Fellow PSG footballer Neymar, for example, lives in a five-storey, 10,800 square foot mansion in the fancy suburb of Bougival; Messi could follow suit and buy a €4 million house currently on sale with Residences Immobilier nearby, with 14 rooms and rolling lawns.

Although I’d bet my money on him looking slightly north in the ultra-posh Neuilly-sur-Seine. Currently available via Christie's International is a €25 million 19th century mansion with a swimming pool, a gym, seven en-suite bedrooms and views across the Bois de Boulogne park – ideal for walking Hulk, his aptly named Bullmastiff who may well terrify the poodles and beautifully coiffed terriers of the French capital.

Neighbours in Neuilly to get round for drinks include ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and his supermodel wife Carla Bruni (once the former is free from house arrest, of course), the actor Jean Reno, and the actress Carole Bouquet.

Where his children will go to school

The Ermitage School
The Ermitage School

Paris’ prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand is in the 5th and it educated Jacques Chirac, Charles Baudelaire and Victor Hugo, while philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and René Descartes both went to nearby Lycée Henri-IV. Both are state schools and students from across the city fight for a place in a series of highly competitive exams.

There are far fewer private schools in France than Britain, largely because state education is so good, and those that do exist cost as little as €1,100 a year. However, notable outliers include Marymount International School – the oldest English-speaking school in Paris, which is found in the heart of Neuilly – and the Ermitage International School of France, the most expensive school in the country, with annual fees of about £35,000 a year.

Ermitage welcomes children from as young as two all the way until the Baccalaureat, and offers activities including rowing, riding, fencing, tennis and, of course, football. Its classes are in English and French, it’s surrounded by forests and gardens despite being just a few miles to the west of Paris, and boasts just 13 students per class – ideal for three little Messis.

Where he’ll eat

Now this is where Paris really comes into its own. Is there anything better than being in France with an unlimited budget to spend, an open diary and an appetite built up after a day on the pitch?

Other than perhaps Tokyo, Paris is the unrivalled fine dining capital of the world and meals that run into four or five figures are the norm. ​​Chef Yannick Alléno offers a €395 menu featuring langoustines and foie gras at his three-starred Michelin restaurant near the Champs-Elysées – and that’s without wine. The Pre Catelan, a three-Michelin starred restaurant a 10-minute walk from Neuilly, also offers 10 beautifully presented courses for €290.

The most popular restaurant of summer 2021, however, has been relative newcomer Girafe, which is around the corner from Messi’s current apartment and has a rooftop terrace that was no doubt designed with Instagram in mind, thanks to its jaw-dropping views of the Eiffel Tower and its particularly pretty tasting menu.

Where he’ll spend a night away from the kids

The dining room at the Hotel de Crillon
The dining room at the Hotel de Crillon

Nothing encapsulates fantasy-laden Paris better than the city’s 11 palace hotels. This isn’t just a description, it’s a designation introduced by the French government 10 years ago for five-star hotels that have 'exceptional qualities that embody French standards of excellence'. In other words, they are a step above your average luxury hotel.

And with multi-Michelin starred restaurants, ornate interiors and extraordinarily glamorous histories attached, they really are. (And they have a price tag to match – an entry level double room in most of them starts at £1,300 a night.)

The Crillon is the establishment Marie Antoinette would have chosen had she been alive in 2021 and going on holiday. In fact, back in 1774, she took music lessons in the building it is housed in. Inside is a heated underground pool (ideal for a South American used to Barcelona temperatures) bedrooms designed by Karl Lagerfeld and a butler assigned to each guest. Although his sights should be set on the wrap-around balcony of the Bernstein Suite, which is usually occupied by film stars and royalty thanks to its £24,000 a night price tag...

Where he’ll shop

Most people – whether they’re 19-year-old students or 34-year-old footballing legends – want a wardrobe overhaul when they first move to Paris. That’s partly because the inhabitants of the city are famously sniffy about any outfit they don’t approve of, but also because in Messi’s case, the weather is significantly colder than in Barcelona. Out goes his ubiquitous uniform of Villebrequins, espadrilles and a T-shirt then.

This summer, the Samaritaine building – which has, since 1869, loomed over the Seine and the Pont Neuf – reopened under its new owners at LVMH, and it offers everything from France’s top luxury brands to small under-the-radar Parisian labels, and even a Cheval Blanc spa to relax in. The Bon Marché, meanwhile, is one of the sleekest department stores in the world and is just across the river from their apartment.

Messi’s ex-model wife Antolela, who left Barcelona this morning in a T-shirt emblazoned with the word ‘Versace’ may soon be swapping that for something un peu plus francais...

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