Paris (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino insisted that “any big player in the world is always welcome at Paris Saint-Germain” as the new coach of the French giants responded to questions about the possibility of a sensational move for his compatriot Lionel Messi.
The Argentine was asked several times about Messi at his first press conference since being named coach of PSG, with the Barcelona superstar now free to negotiate with other clubs as his contract runs out in June.
“To be honest we are not talking about that, it has been a crazy period for us, trying to adapt to a new club with meetings, training, preparing for the game tomorrow which is the main objective,” said former Tottenham Hotspur coach Pochettino, whose first match in charge of PSG will be on Wednesday at Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1.
“We are going to have time to talk in the future, but any big player in the world is always welcome at Paris Saint-Germain.”
Neymar set tongues wagging last month when he spoke of his desire to team up again with Messi, his old teammate at Barcelona, next season.
If that is to happen, then right now it seems more likely to be in Paris than in Barcelona, with the Catalans struggling financially and in crisis at boardroom level.
Messi, like Pochettino, comes from the Argentine province of Santa Fe. Messi’s boyhood club was Newell’s Old Boys, where Pochettino started his career.
– Alli, Eriksen links –
In the short-term, names linked with moves to PSG in the January window include Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, both of whom played under Pochettino at Tottenham.
“They are rumours, and the reality is that we have just arrived and are working with the players who are here,” said Pochettino of Eriksen, who is currently at Inter Milan.
“The current reality is complicated and across the world we are all suffering.”
– First game on Wednesday –
Pochettino, 48, was appointed on a deal until the end of next season, with the option of a further year, having spent just over a year out of the game after leaving Spurs.
He is returning to Paris, where he spent two and a half years as a player between 2001 and 2003, as the successor to Thomas Tuchel.
The German was sacked despite taking PSG to the final of the Champions League last season, with the Qatar-owned club currently third in Ligue 1, a point off top spot.
“Father Christmas was good to me to give me this opportunity. We are very much aware of the size of the challenge here. There is big pressure because this is one of the biggest clubs in the world,” said Pochettino, who will be tasked with getting the very best out of Neymar and his fellow superstar forward Kylian Mbappe.
Wednesday’s game at Saint-Etienne is the first of nine matches in less than seven weeks before PSG face Messi and Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in February.
“It looks far away but it’s next month, and for us the most important thing is to build, try to be at our best when we face Barcelona,” said the Argentine, who led Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final.
“We are really confident, we have an unbelievable squad and we will have the aim of winning and going further but Barcelona is one of the great clubs in the world and it is going to be tough.”
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