Home Sports Messi’s arrival at PSG would give coach tactical headache

Messi’s arrival at PSG would give coach tactical headache

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PARIS (AP) — If Lionel Messi becomes the latest star to help Paris Saint-Germain’s quest to win the elusive Champions League, coach Mauricio Pochettino must find the best way to do so accommodate him in a top-heavy attack.

Messi bid a tearful farewell to Barcelona on Sunday. At the same time, PSG was in talks with his team, trying to finalize a deal to sign him amid reports Messi had flown to Paris on Sunday for a meeting.

Talk of Messi’s imminent arrival led several hundred PSG fans to wait outside Le Bourget airport, to the north of Paris, often used by PSG and the national team. Messi would become the biggest star to arrive at Parc des Princes since cash-rich Qatari owners QSI took over the club ten years ago.

Messi’s arrival would surpass even the fanfare of Neymar’s world-record signing for 222 million euros ($261 million) from Barcelona in 2017 or Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s brazenly self-promoting presentation by the Eiffel Tower in 2012. They never won a Ballon d’Or, let alone the record six Messi has.

Messi

The soccer great’s staggering 672 goals for Barca includes an extraordinary 50-goal season in 2012, 96 league goals, and a remarkable 133 overall across 2012 and 2013, eight Spanish leagues, and six Champions League scoring titles. Not to mention four Champions League trophies with Barcelona, a record 91 goals in a calendar year for club and country, and a Copa America title with Argentina.

Even Messi’s 34 will have little impact on the vast anticipation his arrival would generate within French soccer and beyond. But where is Pochettino, a fellow Argentine, going to play him in the attack, including Neymar, France’s World Cup star Kylian Mbappe, and Copa America match-winner Angel Di Maria and sharpshooter Mauro Icardi?

Mbappe cost 180 million euros ($212 million) and netted a career-high 42 goals last season. On Saturday night, he showed his finishing skills in PSG’s league opener — a 2-1 win at Troyes — and had 34 goals in 64 games for PSG. The club paid 50 million euros ($59 million) for Icardi.

Icardi will surely fall behind in the pecking order and could even be sold or loaned to take some weight off the club’s massive wage bill. Pochettino must decide whether to use Di Maria in a four-person attack at the risk of unbalancing midfield. PSG showed last season — and in the way it conceded a soft goal from a corner against Troyes — that it needs protection at the back. Here’s a look at possible PSG tactical formations with Messi in the side:4-3-3: Messi on the right of the attack, Neymar on the left, and Mbappe playing through the middle in his preferred center forward’s role. Messi has played in this role many times at Barca. But while the 4-3-3 also offers greater security in midfield, there’s no place for Di Maria.

4-2-3-1: Di Maria takes his place on the right flank, with Messi playing behind Mbappe in a playmaker’s role and Neymar again attacking from the left side. Great on the eye, but a two-person midfield — likely Marco Verratti and new signing Georginio Wijnaldum — would make PSG vulnerable to counterattacks.3-5-2: It is possibly the best option, with Messi pushing upfront alongside Mbappe and Neymar using his slick probing and passing playing behind them. Verratti and Wijnaldum would get welcome support in the middle. But this formation would again be at the expense of Di Maria, who was arguably PSG’s best player last season, along with Mbappe and goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

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