Paris Saint Germain forward, Lionel Messi could not play beyond the first half in the French Ligue 1 match between his club and Lille on Friday, October 29.
Messi who joined PSG last summer was expected to use the game against the reigning Ligue 1 champions to announce himself in the French league but he could not do much.
He played in the entire first half in the absence of Kylian Mbappe who is undergoing treatment for his ear, nose, and throat (ENT) infection. Under Messi’s watch, Lille took the lead in the 31st minute courtesy of Jonathan David’s strike.
Lionel Messi’s partnership with Angel Di Maria and Neymar upfront could not produce any positive result. The best Messi got from the game was a free-kick just outside Lille’s eighteen-yard boss which he played a bit wide.
To the surprise of many football fans who came to the Parc des Princes to watch the record six times Ballon d’Or winner play, coach Mauricio Pochettino decided to substitute the Argentine football icon after the halftime break.
His countryman, Mauro Icardi replaced Messi in the second half ending Messi’s hope of scoring his first Ligue 1 goal in five league games.
Messi’s absence benefitted the team as PSG went on to score two goals courtesy of Marquinhos’ 77th-minute equalizer and Angel di Maria’s 88th-minute winner. The two goals were enough to give the home team a 2-1 win over Lille.
After the game, coach Pochettino told Amazon Prime that Lionel Messi was substituted during the halftime break as a precautionary measure.
“We have to wait”, the coach said. “We spoke with the doctor. It’s a precaution. He couldn’t go on, but it’s not a big issue. He will be available for the next game.”
Coach Pochettino was asked whether it was better for the team to play a natural number 9 like Icardi, and the coach stressed that the absence of a number 9 in the first half was not a problem.
“I don’t think that was the problem in the first half”, the coach said. “It’s just that Lille knows us well. We weren’t good enough to feed our offensive players and have control of the game. But I don’t think it’s a single-player or a position that changes everything.
“Overall I think we deserved to win. It’s an option to play (a three-man defense next time), to find different ways to play. We can adapt to this system. But it’s good to be flexible. Sometimes the starting plan doesn’t work and I’m happy to have that option for players with different characteristics. But we have to keep working on it.”
The 2-1 win over Lille has cemented PSG leadership of the French Ligue 1 table. The club is currently leading the table with 31 points in 12, games, 10 points above second-placed Lens.
While the defeat at the hands of PSG has pushed Lille down to the 11th spot with 15 points in 12 games, 16 points away from PSG.
Coach Mauricio Pochettino admits that he had a problem picking Lionel Messi over Mbappe and Neymar for the 2021 Ballon d’Or
The coach of Paris Saint Germain, Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that he had a problem when he said that Lionel Messi deserves to win the 2021 Ballon d’Or over Mbappe and Neymar.
Recall that Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe have been nominated for the prestigious Ballon d’Or this year. Messi is seen as a major contender for his performance at his former club, FC Barcelona, and his country Argentina.
But other nominees like Mbappe and Neymar feel they have the chance to stop the 34-year-old Argentine football icon from winning his 7th Ballon d’Or.
“I had a problem saying that Messi should win the Ballon d’Or”, coach Pochettino said.
“Neymar and Mbappé told me why not them.
“In any case, it would be great for any player from Paris to win it, but Leo deserves it.”