Mauricio Pochettino has moved to defend Messi after the forward’s missed penalty against Real Madrid.
Although Kylian Mbappe’s superb late winner put the Parisians on the brink of the Champions League quarter-finals, Lionel Messi’s performance in the first leg drew criticism.
Since his first season in the competition (2004-05), no player has missed more Champions League penalties than Lionel Messi, who has failed with five spot-kicks.
But speaking ahead of PSG’s Ligue 1 outing to Nantes on Saturday, PSG Boss launched a strong defence of his fellow Argentinian.
“Messi is the best in the world,” said Mauricio Pochettino. “A player like him, with his experience, and what he means, is the essence of football.
“If you want to explain to someone what football is all about, it is Leo Messi.
“In no way will missing a penalty affect his confidence, that is impossible. If anyone thinks that, they do not understand this sport.
“I am pleased with his performance. He played well [against Madrid], which was down to his ability to link difference pieces together on the pitch.
“Leo Messi is football.”
Leo Messi has struggled for consistency during a stop-start first season in French capital, netting just two league goals from an expected goals tally of 5.82, a notable underperformance of over three goals.
Messi was joined on the pitch against Real Madrid by Neymar, as the substitute provided the assist for Kylian Mbappe’s match-winning.
PSG Boss has confirmed Neymar is now in contention to make his first start since suffering an ankle injury against Saint-Etienne last November.
“Neymar could start [against Nantes],” Pochettino said on Friday.
“He has been doing well in training, and he has been very focused at every stage of his recovery, showing his commitment to get back to his best level and help the team.
“We hope that he is over these problems now, and through playing competitive games, that he can reach his best level.”