Mauricio Pochettino claims Lionel Messi has been treated unfairly at PSG during his first season at the club and has backed him to bounce back during 2022/23.
Messi arrived on a two-year deal last summer after sensationally bringing to an end his legendary spell at Barcelona, but things haven’t been so straightforward in the French capital.
The 34-year-old has only scored nine times in all competitions – just four of those goals coming in 23 Ligue 1 appearances – and he was among a number of players booed by supporters after PSG’s Champions League last 16 exit at the hands of Real Madrid.
That ill-feeling was again on show as PSG’s ultras opted to walk out en masse after last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Lens, rather than celebrate the club securing an eighth Ligue 1 title in 10 years.
Pochettino has no doubt that things have been blown out of proportion and says Messi has been treated unfairly – claiming that it’s only natural for him to require time to acclimatise to his new surroundings despite being on a similar level of genius to Diego Maradona.
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“To judge Messi in this way is unfair,” Pochettino remarked.
“You can’t talk about Messi that way. It is like when I talk about Maradona. I’m not talking about an ordinary player. Messi is on the same level as Diego Maradona.
“I have no doubts about his quality. Messi has enough talent to do what he has to do. He will do it. Next season will be completely different for him. It was a year of learning, and not just on a professional level coming to Paris Saint-Germain, in a new league and with new teammates, but also on a family level. You must take that into account. It is a significant upheaval that can affect a player.
“It is clear that the move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain was a change in which a process of adaptation was necessary. Certain circumstances did not allow him to feel as comfortable as in Barcelona, where he had spent 20 years, where he had been the flagship player.”
Messi’s meagre Ligue 1 return is his worst goalscoring season since 2005/06, when he was on the fringes of Barcelona’s team as a fresh-faced teenager, though he has contributed 13 assists to PSG’s cause.
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