Mauricio Pochettino defends Lionel Messi after 'unfair' criticism of his debut season at PSG, claiming the forward is 'on the same level as Diego Maradona'... as he insists 'next season will be completely different' for Argentine
- Lionel Messi has had a difficult first season at PSG, scoring just four league goals
- The 34-year-old has been criticised for his performances by some observers
- Mauricio Pochettino feels Messi has been unfairly criticised this season
- Pochettino believes the forward deserves to be compared to Diego Maradona
- He has backed Messi to turn his form around in his second season at PSG
The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner made the shock switch from Barcelona to PSG last August, but he has only scored four goals in Ligue 1 this term, and has been outshone by team-mate Kylian Mbappe, who has found the net on 24 occasions in the French top flight.
This has led to some observers questioning Messi's displays, but Pochettino has given his full backing to the forward, and believes there are a number of reasons to explain the 34-year-old's struggles.
Lionel Messi has struggled to live up to expectations in his maiden campaign at PSG
Kylian Mbappe has outperformed Messi as he has led PSG to another Ligue 1 title
'We’re not talking about an ordinary player, Messi is on the same level as Diego Maradona,' Pochettino said in an interview with Europe 1, as quoted by Get French Football News.
'It is clear that his move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain was a big change, in which an adaptation process was necessary.
'Certain circumstances didn’t allow him to feel as comfortable as he did at Barcelona where he’d spent 20 years. Where he had been the standard bearer of the club.
'To judge Messi in this way is unfair. I have no doubts about his quality… Next season will be a completely different season for him.
Mauricio Pochettino feels Messi is being unfairly criticised for his performances this season
Pochettino has tipped Messi to have a much stronger season at PSG next year
'This has been a year of learning, and not only at the professional level in coming to Paris, in a new league and with new team-mates, but also at the family level.
'This must be taken into account. It’s a major upheaval that can affect a player.'
Despite his underwhelming first year in France, it has been reported that Messi will get to prove himself next term at PSG as the club has decided to keep hold of him.
The Ligue 1 giants are set to build a new-look team around the Argentine playmaker as Kylian Mbappe is being heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid, Angel Di Maria is out of contract this summer, plus the club are willing to listen to offers for Neymar.
Whether Pochettino will be given the opportunity to get the best out of Messi next season remains to be seen as reports have claimed that the 50-year-old is likely to be replaced in the PSG dugout in the near future.
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