Messi-Mbappe-Neymar at PSG: The formations Pochettino could toy with
It’s confirmed: Lionel Messi is moving to Paris.
Lionel Messi is travelling to France after agreeing to join Paris Saint-Germain, paving the way for one of the games greats to play for a new club after spending his entire career at Barcelona.
According to AP, the 34-year-old Argentina star is set to agree on a two-year contract with the option for a further season.
Messi is set to earn around 35 million euros ($41 million) net annually, the report said.
Messi became the most desired free agent in soccer history after his Barcelona contract expired. The Catalan club had hoped to keep Messi, who agreed to a pay cut, but it still would not have complied with the Spanish league financial regulations.
Messi’s arrival would surpass even the fanfare of his former teammate from Barcelona, Neymar’s world-record signing for 222 million euros ($261 million) in 2017, or Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s brazenly self-promoting presentation by the Eiffel Tower in 2012.
But neither Neymar nor Ibrahimovic has won a single Ballon d’Or title, while Messi has six titles to his name.
The soccer great’s staggering tally of 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 LaLiga 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 age (34) will have little impact on the huge anticipation that his arrival would generate within French soccer and beyond.
But where will Pochettino, a fellow Argentine, play him in attack which includes Neymar, France’s World Cup star Kylian Mbappe, Copa America match-winner Angel Di Maria, and Argentine sharpshooter Mauro Icardi?
Mbappe was roped in for 180 million euros ($212 million) and netted a career-high 42 goals last season. The club paid 50 million euros ($59 million) for Icardi. He showed his finishing skills on Saturday night in PSG’s league-opener a 2-1 win at Troyes and has 34 goals in 64 games for PSG.
Icardi looks certain to fall behind in the pecking order and could even be sold or loaned to take some weight off the club’s huge wage bill.
Pochettino needs to decide whether to use Di Maria in a four-man 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 attack, Neymar on the left and Mbappe playing through the middle in his preferred centre 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: This time Di Maria takes his place on the right flank with Messi playing behind Mbappe in a playmakers role and Neymar again attacking from the left side. Great on the eye, but a two-man midfield, likely Marco Verratti, and new signing Georginio Wijnaldum would make PSG vulnerable to counterattacks.
- 3-5-2: 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 once again be at the expense of Di Maria, who was arguably PSG’s best player last season along with Mbappe and goalkeeper Keylor Navas.