Is Pochettino under huge pressure at PSG after Messi arrival?
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Former PSG star Nicolas Anelka has slammed Mauricio Pochettino for his handling of Lionel Messi in the early stages of his career in France. Messi was visibly unhappy with Pochettino after being substituted in his last PSG appearance, and Anelka understands his frustration.
PSG narrowly maintained their 100 per cent record at the start of the Ligue 1 season with a late 2-1 win over Lyon on September 19.
Neymar had equalised from the penalty spot in the 66th minute before Messi was hooked for Achraf Hakimi 10 minutes later.
It was a bizarre move, considering the hosts were chasing a goal, but Pochettino’s substitutions ultimately worked out.
Mauro Icardi came on for Angel di Maria with eight minutes left and scored a stoppage-time winner.
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After full-time, Pochettino explained he wanted to protect Messi and claimed the Argentine icon was okay with his decision in the dressing room.
He said: “I took the decision to take Leo off to protect him from possible injuries. We have important games coming up, and we want to protect him.
“These are decisions that we make for the good of the team. Everyone knows we have great players.
“Sometimes these choices pay off, and sometimes they don’t. But that’s why we’re standing in front of the bench thinking about what to do.
“And those decisions that you have to make, whether things go well or not. Whether you like it or not. Afterwards, Messi told me he was fine with the decision.”
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Messi wasn’t happy to leave the pitch in such a scenario, though, and Anelka has questioned Pochettino’s decision.
He told Marca: “You cannot substitute a Ballon d’Or winner when he has not scored yet.
“Messi will not forget about Pochettino and it will be difficult to recover the situation. You cannot handle Messi like that.”
Pochettino’s decision may have since been justified, considering Messi has missed the last two games through a knee injury.
The 34-year-old has returned to training and is undergoing a race for fitness ahead of PSG’s Champions League clash with Manchester City on Tuesday night.
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Anelka added that despite his legacy as one of the best footballers in history, Messi must serve Kylian Mbappe, the leading man of Pochettino’s attack, at PSG.
“Mbappe has to be the head of the attack because he is number one,” Anelka explained.
“Messi was one at Barca, but now he has to serve Mbappe. He has been at the club for five years, and Messi has to respect him.
“Mbappe is irreplaceable. In speed, he is the best in the world, and PSG must do everything to make him stay. But I think he has already decided. He wants more, and it is normal.”
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