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Lionel Messi

Pochettino hails “incredible” Messi

Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian coach Mauricio Pochettino on Friday hailed superstar arrival Lionel Messi as an “incredible” talent who will lift his team to new heights this season.

“I see him as happy with incredible energy,” Pochettino said after overseeing training at the club’s Saint-Germain-en-Laye base west of Paris.

Messi, 34, met his teammates on Thursday, two days after arriving in France on ending his 21-year-association with Barcelona.

Pochettino said that to see Messi begin a new chapter at PSG was to have “the same sensation as the whole squad and the fans — enthusiasm and positive energy,” 

“The whole planet saw” Messi arrive. 

“The players have received him superbly — there’s a good feeling, good communication,” said Pochettino, who like Messi spent an early spell at Newell’s Old Boys back in Argentina.

Pochettino also spent a large chunk of his own playing career in Barcelona — albeit starring for smaller neighbour Espanyol. 

“I have always admired him. He’s one of the greatest players in the world — if not the greatest.”

Pochettino is tasked with ending PSG’s relentless but so far unsuccessful pursuit of the Champions League as well as taking back the league crown they let slip last season to Lille.

For that, Pochettino must integrate his embarrassment of attacking riches  — the reunited Messi and Neymar along with Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe, who cost PSG 180 million euros ($211m) when he arrived four years ago from Monaco, is out of contract at the end of this season and remains a long-time target for Real Madrid.

“Mbappe is possible,” said the headline on the front of Madrid-based sports daily AS on Tuesday.

But Pochettino plans to keep all his aces, batting away any idea that Mbappe is on his way.

“Our challenge is for the squad’s great names to be able to form a great team on the pitch with discipline and unity. It’s very exciting,” said Pochettino.

“We have to create a dynamic where every player has his place and can feel important. We have the talent — PSG always have — but we also have to have a group and not just for pictures on social media.”

As well as Messi, he has upgraded last year’s squad with Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Italian Euro 20 winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and Real Madrid legend Sergio Ramos to wow PSG fans and win matches.

Having started their campaign with a 2-1 win at Troyes, PSG host Strasbourg on Saturday in front of what should be their first capacity crowd since before the pandemic.

But Messi is not ready to feature yet.

“I hope to (play) as soon as possible as I want to play. When the staff decide I can then it will be with great pleasure,” Messi said Wednesday.

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