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Messi’s arrival at PSG would give coach tactical headache

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By AP Updated: Aug 09, 2021 10:31 pm
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Paris, Aug. 9 (AP): If Lionel Messi does become the latest star to help Paris Saint-Germain’s quest to win the elusive Champions League, coach Mauricio Pochettino must work out the best way to accommodate him in a top-heavy attack.

Messi bid a tearful farewell to Barcelona on Sunday. At the same time, PSG was in talks with his team trying to finalize a deal to sign him amid reports Messi had flown to Paris on Sunday for a meeting.

Talk of Messi’s imminent arrival led several hundred PSG fans to wait outside Le Bourget airport, to the north of Paris, which is often used by PSG and the national team.

Messi would become the biggest star to arrive at Parc des Princes since cash-rich Qatari owners QSI took over the club 10 years ago.

Messi’s arrival would surpass even the fanfare of Neymar’s world-record signing for 222 million euros ($261 million) from Barcelona in 2017, or ZlatanIbrahimovic’s brazenly self-promoting presentation by the Eiffel Tower in 2012.

They never won a Ballon d’Or, let alone the record six Messi has.

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 Spanish league 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 — he’s 34 — will have little impact on the huge anticipation that his arrival would generate within French soccer and beyond.

But where is Pochettino, a fellow Argentine, going to play him in attack which includes Neymar, France’s World Cup star KylianMbappe, Copa America match-winner Angel Di Maria and sharpshooter Mauro Icardi?

Mbappe cost 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.

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By AP Updated: Aug 09, 2021 10:31:41 pm