Hardly have I ever watched Messi as isolated and disengaged as he was last night, especially in the second half.
Before anything, we must acknowledge that the Messi we are talking about here is 35 years old and no longer has the legs to sprint like he did in his twenties. It is due to this lack of pace that he has reoriented his game from the right flank, to take up a deeper and more central role. Getting the best left of him therefore requires playing to his strengths. That’s where PSG come in. https://youtu.be/_hs1sszfhCU
Christophe Galtier played Messi as part of a front two last night alongside Mbappe. In modern football the attack line has the frontline role of pressing. At 35, Messi simply is unable to do that, or at least consistently enough. Playing him , therefore, as part of a front two was a complete waste. When PSG was without the ball it felt like they were playing with a man less. https://youtu.be/_hs1sszfhCU
The best strategy, I believe, would be to use Messi at the top of a midfield diamond and just behind an attacking duo. That way, he doesn’t get to lead the pressing. The midfield then also creates a protective blanket around him to unleash diagonals outwide to wingers or find the striker with through passes. He can join the attack at will. https://youtu.be/_hs1sszfhCU
THE PSG PROBLEM
Protecting Messi and playing to his strengths as explained above will almost imply the Argentinian captain becomes the heartbeat of the PSG set-up. That cannot be done because Mbappe is the face of the project. He is “the” star while Messi is reduced to being just one of the lot. That too has not gone down as easy as those that advocate it would want. Messi remains who he is and everyone he plays with is naturally in his shadow.
As it stands, Mbappe is anchoring the PSG project. There is no chance the team will play for Messi. At the same time, Messi does not have the legs to play for Mbappe. His aura wouldn’t even permit. Who even dares ask that of him, anyway?
In the smaller games, everything looks right but when the big ones come around the problem will always get exposed.
Summarily, it is in the interest of both Messi and PSG to part ways. PSG will be a more competitive and solid unit if a team is built around Mbappe– a proper hardworking team from defence to attack that plays for Mbappe. Messi (and even Neymar) must leave for the common good. They get to enjoy being protagonists elsewhere, while PSG seeks to build Mbappe’s PSG.
By the way, the best for Messi will be a short spell at Barca to get a proper farewell to his gargantuan standards, and then a move to an exotic location to export his talent and expand his legacy.
Watch Messi’s 300th Club assist here