Seven times Balloon D’ Or winner, Lionel Messi has endured a turbulent first season in Paris with the playmaker transitioning into a different role since joining from FC Barcelona.
Quite frankly, Four goals in a full season with barely four matches remaining is a Lionel Messi we’ve never dreamt we’ll see.
During his time at Barcelona, the Argentine maestro hit astronomical figures season after season including a record 50 goals in 2012.
His first real test away from Barcelona have been nothing short of difficult as he’s very unlikely to hit double figures. He now accepts that his role has changed from poacher to Kylian Mbappe assist supplier.
In trying to keep Kylian away from Real Madrid, PSG coach, Mauricio Pochettino has revealed the goal of the team is to have Mbappe finish both as top scorer and top assister.
Mbappe has had an explosive season and that has partly been at the expense of Messi. The Argentine has struggled to adapt to French football and his adjustment to the PSG team hasn’t gone all to well either.
These struggles placed Mbappe as the ideal face of the team with Messi tasked to be his supporting cast.
Unfair to Leo is the fact that he’s been judged based on his goal scoring exploit alone. The Argentine has been unlucky, having struck the woodwork eight times this season, twice as much as he’s scored. And more than anyone in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Being Leo this season is difficult as both critics and even his own fans have booed him.
“It’s a more physical league, where games are hotly contested, where there is a lot of back and forth,” Messi told Sport a matter of weeks after arriving at PSG. “The players are strong and fast. Physically, it changes a lot.
“In Spain, all the teams try to play a lot more and they keep the ball from you if you don’t press well. The biggest difference, though, is physically.”
The new role and most importantly, PSG’s difficulty in gelling as a team has forced Messi to unfairly take blames he isn’t entirely responsible for.
Coach Pochetino said this in defence of Messi :
“Between Covid, injuries and the Argentina national side that has called him every month, his chances of adaptation have been limited,” he told El Pais in February.
“He’s never made excuses and neither have we. But he’s never played at a club other than Barcelona and when you arrive at a new side, you always go through a natural process of finding your place.
“Injuries, travelling and not being with your team-mates all lengthens the time for the team to adapt or for you to find the best version of yourself.”
In truth, Messi hasn’t been bad, instead he’s had to adapt and change his game going from goal machine to playmaker/goal provider.
He takes up spaces in the middle, run at defenders and create chances with Mbappe enjoying him more than anyone else.
Messi has give 13 assists this season, he stands in the top 20 chances created this season. He’s been dropping good performances but it’s just different from the Messi we are used to seeing.
Saying Messi has declined is an over exaggeration, PSG struggles coupled with transition issues has limited his performances but Messi has become an integral part of the team and we might see the real Messi with PSG next season.