Pochettino forced to justify Messi substitution despite PSG win

Nicholas Hughes
Lionel Messi, PSG, 2021/22

Lionel Messi made his home debut for PSG overnight but was replaced by fellow summer arrival Achraf Hakimi with the scores still locked at 1-1 with around 15 minutes to play against Lyon.

PSG went on to win the game thanks to a last-minute winner from Mauro Icardi, but Messi’s removal was met with great surprise from both the Argentine himself and from the supporters.

Mauricio Pochettino was forced to defend his decision post-game when asked why he took the 34-year-old off, pointing out the quality that he has throughout the playing squad, not just in the starting XI.

“Everyone knows we have great players on the team. We have a very rich squad of 35 players,” he said.

“Then we have to make choices, with the 11 who start, and then we have to make decisions during the game."

The former Tottenham boss is not wrong, looking at the array of talent that he had on the bench in the match against Lyon.

Not all about Messi: PSG's bench is still stacked with talent

Icardi came on to score the winner, Hakimi was just signed for around €70 million, and Georginio Wijnaldum – a Premier League and Champions League winner – also emerged from the bench.

Even those that were unused included recent Copa America winner Leandro Paredes, a World Cup winner in Julian Draxler and Keylor Navas, as Gianluigi Donnarumma made his debut for Les Parisiens.

Messi has yet to score his first goal for the French giants, although he did manage to slam a free-kick right into the junction of post and crossbar in the first half against Lyon, adding to a similar outcome from a long-range effort against Brugge in the Champions League in midweek.

Given the fact Messi has played his entire career at Barcelona and with the circumstances surrounding his departure from Camp Nou, there is bound to be an adjustment period.

But no player is immune to being substituted, no matter who they are, and Pochettino has certainly made a statement confirming as such with this decision.