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Lionel Messi in Paris Saint Germain so far

The world of football stood still and burst into cacophony at the same time when it was made official that Lionel Messi wouldn’t be able to continue at his lifelong club FC Barcelona. Financial ruin brought about by the reckless, unchecked management of former President Josep Maria Bartomeu implied that the club was in no position to tie down the greatest player in its history to a new contract and therefore, Messi had to leave.

The availability of Lionel Messi suddenly rang alarm bells all over Europe. Messi’s loyalty and continuity with Barcelona has almost always been taken for granted by most big clubs. That is why despite always being interested in his services, no club has managed to lure him away from Barcelona.

But this time around, the opportunity presented itself on a platter and PSG were the first to respond. Making the most convenient use of Messi’s friendship with Neymar, Paredes, and Di Maria and convincing him with the successful project being built that will be spearheaded by Messi, Mbappe, and Neymar, PSG almost disrupted world football by bringing Messi to France.

Almost three months have passed since Lionel Messi signed for Paris Saint Germain. How successful has he been since then? How has the move worked out? We’ll discuss below in great detail.

LIGUE 1 AND CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: A STORY OF TWO HALVES

The start of Lionel Messi’s career at PSG can be divided into two contrasting chapters: Ligue 1 and UEFA Champions League.

Messi made his debut for a new club in a new league for the first time in his senior career against Reims on August 30. Messi came on in the 66th minute and PSG who were already cruising at 2-0 by that point, looked comfortable in possession. Besides a couple of mazy, darting runs and a few splendid passes, there wasn’t much to note about his debut.

For Messi, widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time, that theme has continued in the French League where his extraordinary talents and powers have looked pedestrian. Affected by frequent injuries, niggles, and a lack of continuity, Messi has only started in four of PSG’s last eight league games. Lionel Messi is yet to open his goal-scoring tally in Ligue 1.

In a recent interview Messi stated that the injuries have affected his rhythm. This makes it harder to acclimatize to the conditions in the French League where physicality is a bit more dominant compared to La Liga where the Argentine has spent almost his entire career.

The story, however, has been completely different in the UEFA Champions League where Messi has played a starring role for PSG so far. Although his first Champions League adventure arrived in a disappointing draw away with Club Brugge, the lively combination between him and Neymar and Mbappe started to capture attention.

In the second Champions League match against Pep Guardiola’s coach Manchester City, Lionel Messi grabbed headlines with a superlative performance that was capped off with a truly memorable goal. Receiving the ball almost at the halfway, Messi started making a trademark run towards the City defence. In the final third, he exchanged a quick one-two with Kylian Mbappe and then beat the City defenders and slotted the ball past Ederson’s reach and into the net!

Messi proved decisive once again in the third Champions League game against RB Leipzig. With the PSG behind at 2-1, Messi scored twice including one from the penalty spot to steal yet another important Champions League victory for the Parisian outfit. PSG missed him sorely in the most recent game against RB Leipzig where they ended up drawing in his absence.

MESSI AT PSG: GROUP DYNAMICS AND TACITCAL HINDRANCE

Lionel Messi has struck a wonderful partnership up top with French superstar Kylian Mbappe. The duo have been instrumental in sealing important victories for PSG, especially in the Champions League. Mbappe’s pace and runs in behind makes him an excellent target for Messi’s vision and creative abilities and Mbappe has also assisted a few of Messi’s goals for PSG so far.

The biggest obstacle for Lionel Messi at Paris Saint Germain has been the tactical usage of him. Head coach Mauricio Pochettino has restricted the six-time Ballon d’Or winner to the right wing which has made it difficult for him to participate enough in the buildup or get into the areas from where he can do the most damage.

At Barcelona and Argentina, Lionel Messi enjoys a free role where he gets to start on the wings, drift towards the middle, drop deep to collect the ball and pretty much get into the final third area he deems best. At PSG, however, where two other creative and dynamic players in Neymar and Mbappe exist who also don’t press well, that license has been reined in.

It goes without saying that at his best, Lionel Messi is the greatest footballer in the world. It has been a difficult start for him at PSG where injuries, a new environment, and uneasy tactical use hasn’t brought out the best in him. He had a similar poor start with Barcelona last season but by the end of the season, he was the front-runner for the Ballon d’Or. PSG will be hoping for a similar turn in fortunes when it comes to their megastar.