Lionel Messi, the return to normal

Like a déjà vu feeling. Lionel Messi exuded the Camp Nou atmosphere at the Parc des Princes on Saturday against Nice. In a free kick full axis 20 meters from the Nice goal, the Pulga let their velvet foot speak. In a hug of unstoppable effect, the Paris number 30 left Riviera goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel speechless and found the skylight to open the shot on target. Messi has been offering kicks like this to FC Barcelona for almost 15 years. This grandiose goal sounds like a confirmation of his current form: yes, the Argentine is back.

Having landed in the capital in 2021 as Paris Saint-Germain’s new jewel, the seven-time Ballon d’Or will have had a frustrating first practice session in many ways. He had to digest the emotional burden of his departure from FC Barcelona, ​​​​​​​​his club for life. As if it were harder for a football alien to suddenly be a little more human, as is so often the case. A year later, Messi seems more fulfilled, happier on the pitch. And that changes everything.

Leo is good in the head“, estimated his coach Christophe Galtier on Saturday after his team’s 2-1 victory against Gym.He animates the game and is very generous. He used to score a lot of goals, but last season he had extenuating circumstances. There he gets a taste for scoring again. He’s prepared well, the relationship he has with his partners in the training sessions suggests he’s happy and when he’s happy he performs and gets back to the standards he’s had throughout their career .

Galtier is no stranger to this playfulness. The technician has given the Argentine the best conditions to shine on the pitch. Lionel Messi, often confined to the right flank last season, is now at the heart of Paris’ attacking animation. From the magical trio with Neymar and Mbappé, he has the creative spark to launch the attack on PSG. A moderator role that perfectly suits his qualities and offers him more freedom of movement and therefore creativity.

Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi against Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League, September 14, 2022. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Niçois Dante’s error came from one of his ball-to-foot runs, then Saturday’s superb free-kick. The kind of breakthrough made possible again at the end of a complete and smooth preseason. “Can he become the best player in the world again? Yes, if he’s in incredible shapereplied Christophe Galtier on Saturday. And he’s well prepared.

The numbers about his participation in the game as a Maestro are unequivocal. He manages 1.7 more passes per game into opponent’s space and two “progressive passes”, these transfers that allow a gain of at least ten meters compared to last season. Quite simply, no player in Europe does far better in the five biggest European leagues.

The more present around the goal, the more dangerous Lionel Messi is. He is the player who has attempted the most goals and who scores the most frames in the five major championships this season. Scorer in his last five games with PSG and Argentina, twice decisive in the same game in half of his official meetings since the start of the season, Messi finds that statistical appetite like in his prime at Barcelona. He, who coughed on his debut with two goals and three assists after his first 11 games in La Liga and C1 last season, is already six wins and eight offers in the same stage in 2022.

PSG asked no less. A third success in three games on Benfica’s pitch on Wednesday would ensure a little more of Paris’ task in this first phase of the Champions League, the club’s main goal.

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