Paris Saint-Germain wasted little time in making their move for Lionel Messi. Alerted to the 34-year-old’s availability, it took the Ligue 1 club just a matter of days to make a transfer official, illustrating just how desperate the Parisians were to land the player widely considered the greatest to have ever played the game.
Had this situation played out 12 months earlier, it’s entirely possible Manchester City would have been the club to land Messi. Indeed, they were widely deemed to have led the pursuit in the 2020 summer transfer window and would have signed the Argentine had Barcelona not dug in their heels and refused to let Messi, still under contract at that point, leave.
When the opportunity arose for real, though, City refused to dismantle their side to sign Messi. They valued their team over the individual, instead following through on their plan to sign Jack Grealish and target Harry Kane. And with PSG set to host City in the Champions League on Tuesday night, the Premier League champions have the chance to prove this was the right approach.
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Messi hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts in the French capital. He has yet to find the back of the net for his new team with Mauricio Pochettino so far struggling to fit Kylian Mbappe, Messi and Neymar into the same side. PSG have yet to find the right balance even as they have started the season with eight wins from nine games.
Manchester City, on the other hand, are improving with almost every match they play. Pep Guardiola’s team started their Premier League title defence with an underwhelming defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and were held at home by Southampton just over a week ago, but the away win over Chelsea on Saturday saw them back to their very best.
Much has been made of City’s failure to capture a new centre forward after the exit of Sergio Aguero at the end of last season, with Kane still at Spurs after a public pursuit led to nothing, but Guardiola has devised a system that harnesses a number of different attackers. With Gabriel Jesus, Ferran Torres, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez on the books, City aren’t exactly lacking in goal threat.
Crucially, Guardiola has a much tighter grasp on the identity of his Manchester City team than Pochettino has on PSG. While the summer signing of Messi has raised expectations at the Parc des Princes, Pochettino has yet to find a system to harness all the attacking talent at his disposal.
At Tottenham, Pochettino was renowned for his proactive approach. There has, however, been no sign of that in PSG’s play so far this season with the Ligue 1 outfit unwilling, or unable, to press high on opponents. City are a product of their manager’s footballing philosophy. PSG are currently anything but that and the arrival of Messi hasn’t helped.
Gabriel Jesus celebrates his winner for Manchester City against Chelsea in the Premier League.
Image credit: Getty Images
Of course, it’s still very early days for Messi at PSG. Injuries have denied the 34-year-old the chance to build up any momentum at his new club with Messi not even certain to feature against Manchester City on Tuesday night. Once he is fully fit, it seems inevitable the six-times Ballon d’Or winner will rack up the numbers as he has done all the way through his career.
Right now, though, City look to be much closer to their final form than PSG. Tuesday’s match will pit a finished article against a work in progress. Some at the Etihad Stadium, maybe even Guardiola himself, might still feel a pang of regret over not signing Messi when they had the chance this summer, but victory over PSG would help justify their decision.
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