Paris – Lionel Messi’s arrival at Paris Saint-Germain has left the club with the most frightening frontline in the sport, but now coach Mauricio Pochettino is under pressure to deliver the glory on the pitch that the team’s Qatari owners covet more than anything.
That means winning the Champions League, a competition in which PSG has reached the final and then the semifinals in the last two seasons.
It also, of course, means reclaiming the French title after Lille beat PSG to the crown last season.
How could a team containing Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe not win Ligue 1?
“We don’t hide that it’s our objective,” PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi said at Messi’s unveiling when asked about the Champions League.
However, he later told sports daily L’Equipe “it is not an obligation,” despite the arrival of the six-time Ballon d’Or winner on a reported salary of €35 million ($41 million) a year.
“We have a great team, but we have not won anything yet,” he added.
PSG quickly emerged as the only obvious destination for Messi after the collapse of his new deal with Barcelona, and the player himself admitted the presence of Pochettino on the bench helped sway him.
“Once the negotiations started I spoke with him. I have known him for a long time,” he said of Pochettino, who like Messi is Argentinian and started his career at Newell’s Old Boys in the city of Rosario.
“The fact he is from Argentina means there is a closeness. I chose to come to Paris because of the technical staff and the squad that’s here.”
Messi and Neymar, old pals from Barcelona, are delighted to team up again, but there is speculation that Mbappe — with just a year left on his contract — is not happy about having to share even more of the limelight.
PSG does not want to let him go, though, and Pochettino will have to ensure that fielding that all-star front three, as well as Angel di Maria, does not overly imbalance the team.
That is why PSG’s other summer signings are crucial.
The arrival of Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool adds much-needed quality in midfield alongside Marco Verratti, while Achraf Hakimi was just what the team needed at right-back.
Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma are luxury options in defence and in goal.
PSG won its opening game of the league season 2-1 at Troyes last weekend and hosts Strasbourg on Saturday, when Messi is set to be paraded before the crowd.
The Argentine, who has not had a preseason to speak of, will have to wait a while before his debut.
It also remains to be seen if Neymar will feature this weekend following his late return to preseason training after playing for Brazil in the Copa America.
Ramos is not expected to make his PSG debut at least until next week, but Mbappe will play against Strasbourg amid ongoing talk of a move to Real Madrid.
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