Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino is confused that there is a controversy over Lionel Messi’s performance in the team this season after his impressive role in a 3-1 victory over Saint-Etienne on Saturday.
The former Barcelona player did not score but was instrumental in his team’s fight after Saint-Etienne’s first Denis Bouanga match at Parc des Princes.
Messi reinforced Kylian Mbappe’s blows on both sides during the break, the second of which came after a good ability to round up two Saint-Etienne players.
He has now recruited six assistants since the beginning of the year – more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues.
His two assists on Saturday mean he has scored four goals for Mbappe in Ligue 1 this season, the highest number in the tournament from one player to another.
Messi has been criticized for scoring poor goals in the campaign, with only seven in all competitions, but Pochettino doubts the 34-year-old’s quality.
“I don’t think there can be any debate about Messi because he’s different,” he told Canal +. “No, no argument. It’s impossible.
“Messi is good, he is very good. He played very well and the only thing he lacked was scoring goals.”
Mbappe’s second goal made him equal to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the second-highest scorer in PSG with 156 goals, becoming the first Ligue 1 player this season to reach double the number of goals and assistants (14 goals, 10 assists).
Pochettino was full of praise for the striker’s performance and insisted he was not injured despite being seen holding his right thigh at the end of the first half.
“Kylian went well,” Pochettino said. “He has no problem. He has been suspended from Nice [next Saturday] and will be able to work for a week. He will be ready to start in Madrid [in the second leg of the Champions League against Real Madrid on March 9].
“We are very happy with him, that he is with us. I am proud of him. It’s amazing, it’s amazing.
“I’m very happy because we finished the games very well. We played the second half the way we wanted to play. Kylian is an amazing player. Lionel and Neymar were also important to us.”
PSG have now won five of their last six Ligue 1 games after one of their last five wins, and Pochettino believes his team is moving slowly in the right direction.
“There is progress, small steps,” he added. “I’m happy with that. This is how you have to improve. The team gains confidence as we follow the trail. The team gains a wealth of strategy.”