The acquisition of Lionel Messi as a free agent was seen as a stroke of fortune for PSG. However, the club failed to capitalise on this opportunity fully.
PSG’s missed opportunity with Lionel Messi
Despite parting ways with coach Tuchel and appointing Pochettino, the Argentine coach and the legendary player couldn’t secure the coveted Champions League title. Messi’s departure announcement raises intriguing questions about his dissatisfaction with the partnership. Neither Messi’s caution nor Neymar’s decision to join Ligue 1 during his prime years yielded the desired rewards.
Compared to a year ago, when Marseille trailed PSG by 14 points, the gap has narrowed. Even if Lens defeats struggling Auxerre and Clermont pulls off a surprising victory against PSG, there will still only be a one-point difference in favour of Galtier. Christophe is set to triumph again, leaving Messi to depart Paris as a two-time French champion, albeit without significant titles.
It’s not merely the star names that deserve attention; it’s the collective effort of the team and the coach. The attacking trio failed to live up to expectations. In his first encounter with Ronaldinho, Messi displayed better understanding than his PSG colleagues, despite the two years since their previous meeting. The club, expected to dominate in Ligue 1, suffered six losses and four draws.
Messi’s Adaptation in Ligue 1
Messi’s initial performances in Ligue 1 were underwhelming. He seemed to struggle, having been accustomed to a Barcelona team that revolved around him. He appeared less dynamic and frequently walked instead of making runs. However, he eventually realised the need to adapt and switch on against new opponents. Messi deserves credit for his role as a distributor at PSG, evidenced by his 20 assists in league and European competitions this season, compared to 14 assists in the previous season.
While 16 goals in Ligue 1 would be considered impressive for others, it falls short of Messi’s own high standards. Last season at Barcelona, he scored 30 goals in La Liga, whereas in Ligue 1, he managed only 6. Interestingly, he often dropped deep as a forward, maintaining his playmaker status.
Competent agents play a crucial role in football, and Messi’s lack of one has cost him two years. A move to Manchester City could have been more beneficial. If Guardiola had considered taking Neymar on loan, with de Bruyne, Grealish, and Foden in reserve, he would have eagerly signed Messi two years ago. It would have required accepting more modest wage terms to replace Mahrez.
Lionel’s hesitation about joining the English Premier League stemmed from concerns about preserving his energy before the 2022 World Cup. However, this decision deprived the world of witnessing Messi at Manchester City and deprived Lionel of his long-anticipated duel against Cristiano. A new chapter in their rivalry could have unfolded with Cristiano’s return to Manchester United. Instead, they may eventually meet in Saudi Arabia, but that encounter would likely be in the twilight of their careers.
Another intriguing option is a contract with Inter Miami and a loan move back to Barcelona. Under Xavi’s guidance, the prospect of Messi and Lewandowski forming an attacking partnership to challenge for the Champions League title, or at least reach the final, holds immense appeal. After eight consecutive disappointments in his once-favoured tournament, Messi could seek redemption and success with this new endeavour.
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