Messi can’t save PSG, says Thiery Henry

By Kunle Fayiga

The world is still buzzing in hysteria and excitement as Lionel Messi is officially a PSG player.

The announcement last month sent massive waves across social media and the entire world, with crowd of supporters trooping to the Parc des Princes to get a glimpse of the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.

When he made his debut in the Ligue 1 game against Reims on August 29, the cameras were firmly focused on him while he was warming up on touchline to when he came on and replaced former Barcelona teammate and Brazil superstar Neymar after 66 minutes.

Such is the impact and influence Messi commands across the globe.

It’s exciting times at PSG because Messi is not the only big name to have joined this summer.

The French outfit took on a very rare opportunity to snap Real Madrid and Spain legend Sergio Ramos, Liverpool and Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and highly-rated AC Milan and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, all on free transfers.

Achraf Hakimi is the only player that attracted a transfer fee which was still a bargain €60 million agreement with Inter Milan.

These acquisitions added to already existing players that include Marquinhos, Marco Verratti, Leandro Parades, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi, is creating a debate that this is one of the greatest squads in the history of football, some comparing it to the Galacticos of Real Madrid in the early 2000s that included Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Guti, Raul, Iker Casillas and Claude Makelele.

Indeed, seeing Neymar, Mbappe and Messi take to the field at the same time has mouths watering for what should be a very fearsome attack.

As much as this creates so much excitement and entertainment, it has the potential to create a mess that might not be easy to fix and this could see PSG distracted from their season objectives, chief of them which is winning the Champions League.

Having to manage a squad with a plethora of star players is a herculean task to do. This is because each player is going for individual glory, putting self before the team which could affect results.

Signs of this are already manifesting as seen in the Reims match where Mbappe was reluctant to give Messi the ball in some situations the French man should have passed to the Argentine maestro. In Messi’s full debut against Club Brugge in the Champions League, he was anonymous and the end result was a disappointing 1-1 draw in Belgium.

In his most recent outing against Lyon at the weekend, Messi got hauled off in the 82nd minute much to his displeasure, with the less-favoured Icardi coming on and scoring a late winner deep in injury time after Lyon had taken the lead in Paris, PSG ultimately winning 2-1.

It does seem Messi is having a hard time clicking with his star teammates and the overall PSG environment.

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What’s more is that rifts can ensue among players seeing they have almost equal relevance and influence. Messi was incensed by coach Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to take him off against Lyon when he was clearly ineffective and refused to shake the manager’s hand as he made his way to the bench. That’s a very wrong attitude.

Such unpleasant scenes creates a muddy situation for Pochettino who has never managed a squad of this depth before. He is largely known to be a developmental coach, bringing youth into prominence and limelight as he did at Espanyol and Tottenham Hotspur.

It’s a different reality here and if he can’t massage egos fast enough, ugly scenes and disharmony in the dressing room will ensue. The likes of Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti – who previously managed PSG, have done a tremendous job managing a team of mega stars in the past and Pochettino might want to get advice from them if he’s to have a long stint at the Parc des Princes.

Also the problem of the club gelling to the manager’s tactics and plans could be a big issue. If the players can’t adapt to how Pochettino wants to set the team up, reaching set targets will be a molehill.

This was particular under Thomas Tuchel who tried to implement a compact system focused heavily on the retaining possession, but he was not able to get it into muscle memory of the players and he was ultimately dismissed.

Fans can therefore bask in the euphoria of getting to watch a star-studded PSG team led by Messi, but the concerns raised above are genuine and something that shouldn’t be shied away from.

All eyes will firmly be on the French club and what their fate will be come the end of the 2021-22 season.

Kunle is an avid writer with interest in topics on sports, politics and health. He holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in International Relations and is an advocate for people living with Hydrocephalus and other neurological conditions.

Kunle is an avid writer with interest in topics on sports, politics and health. He holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in International Relations and is an advocate for people living with Hydrocephalus and other neurological conditions.

Follow him on Twitter: @kfayiga

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