The circus came to town with a ringmaster who Manchester City really rather fancied themselves and always seemed destined to park the wagon here.
There were children wearing Paris Saint-Germain shirts bearing his name in the home stands.
A gaggle of selfie hunters had congregated around the Lowry Hotel earlier in the evening to catch a glimpse as he strode onto the bus..
Paris Saint-Germain were beaten 2-1 in their Champions League fixture with Manchester City
Paris Saint-Germain were overly reliant on their star player Lionel Messi (above) once again
The half-and-half scarves sellers, flogging merchandise with his face on the material, did a roaring trade.
But, most pointedly of all, and the City bean counters will agree, were the hordes of fans outside the Etihad, an hour before kick-off, who did not quite know where they were going. Unsure of which turnstile was theirs. Asking stewards for directions with general puzzlement.
There were quite a few here who would count watching one Lionel Messi as more of a pull than the meeting of last season’s semi-finalists. Some regular City fans were complaining in the week that they just could not get their hands on tickets.
Messi fits into any team but he definitely fits into Guardiola’s Manchester City as a false nine
Arguably more than at Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG in a way but he still impacted the game
This occasion welcomed a new breed of potential fan to City’s home, the type that chief executive Ferran Soriano craves.
So it was good too that Pep Guardiola’s team served up a high-energy performance of intent — even with a trio of their biggest stars absent. Maybe some of those on a day trip will return.
Soriano and more than a few others among City’s hierarchy will have witnessed on Wednesday night and wondered what might have been.
As one club source said last year, when the prospect of Messi wriggling a way clear of Barcelona briefly appeared likely, that his arrival would have proven ‘transformational’ for the Premier League champions.
They had drawn up 10-year marketing plans on how best to cash in on Messi’s brand and his mere presence would have rocketed the club into another stratosphere.
Guardiola had wanted to sign Messi when it became clear he was leaving Barcelona
Kylian Mbappe (above) opened the scoring but fans were heard chanting for Messi instead
That was so clear on Wednesday night. The crowd were up in a way that just does not happen in the group stages of this competition and the opposition’s main draw was a major contributing factor.
Guardiola had wanted him for the sheer weight of goals, the chinks of brilliance, the clever occupancy of space.
Messi fits into any team but he definitely fits into Guardiola’s City as a false nine. Yes, they would need to alter their team pressing in the final third but, particularly during a season where a lack of a striker has been such a talking point, he would have looked at home.
Arguably more so than at Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG in a way but he still impacted this game.
Kylian Mbappe opened the scoring but it owed much to the master, who had been so quiet. Messi started the move in his own half and then eventually assisted. He made it himself. The PSG fans knew it. ‘Messi, Messi, Messi,’ came the chants from a packed away end.