Messi wants to return with PSG and Shikhar for World Cup

PARIS (AP) — Lionel Messi ended last season with his first five goals in 10 years.

It was for Argentina against Estonia, however, not for Paris Saint-Germain, where he scored only six league goals in 26 games following his move from Barcelona., It was Messi’s lowest tally since the 2005–06 season, when he was still only 18.

However, his 14 assists for PSG was second in the league behind teammate Kylian Mbappe, a record seven-time Ballon d’Or winner. Form fell well below expectations for the player who scored 672 goals for Barcelona.

That eye-popping total included an extraordinary 50-goal league season in 2012, including 46 in 2013, scoring eight Spanish league titles and six in the Champions League. He scored five runs against Bayer Leverkusen in 2012 with his best performance.

Fast forward a decade and his poor goal for PSG raised the question whether he could adapt after so many years to a new system where illustrious players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Neymar mainly played for him.

“The idea for him is to be more involved in the game and bond with his teammates during the game, which didn’t happen much last season. The more connected the team, the more the team will produce,” said incoming PSG coach Christophe Gaultier. “What I’ve seen, he’s fully invested in. For the rest, the whole world knows what he can do.”

Yet while the last season was difficult for Messi, some wondered if he was holding back for this year’s World Cup.

At 35, it would be his last chance to win with his beloved Argentine. Unique timing of the November 21-December tournament. 18, to escape the summer heat in Qatar, also means it will arrive with more new legs than what it held in June and July.

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Messi was inspiring to lead Argentina to the Copa America title last year, finishing co-top scorer with four goals and leading with five assists. It ended Messi’s arduous wait for a major international trophy after losing one World Cup final and three other Copa America finals.

So he will probably be highly motivated to depart the international game with the biggest trophy.

A strong start for PSG could set them up well for success in Qatar, with a strong Argentine attack featuring Juventus winger Angel Di Maria and Inter Milan forward Lautaro Martinez.

Di Maria’s absence hurt Argentina in their 1-0 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, but his departure from PSG could have really helped Messi at club level.

Previous PSG Coach Mauricio Pochettino There were probably too many attacking options as they tried to accommodate Messi, Neymar, Mbappe, Di Maria and Mauro Icardi.

Gaultier sticks to more structures than the experimental Pochettino, which should favor Messi.

Messi may also have been a victim of his versatility last season and will not be carried that far under Gallier. This means he won’t have to share a position on the flank with Di Maria and will probably go in less to adjust to Mbappe, whose most dangerous position is at the centre.

PSG would be best served if Gaultier picked Neymar and Messi on either side of Mbappe in a definitive three-attack, with clever passer Marco Verratti in an advanced midfield role.

Messi started the season with a goal as PSG beat Nantes 4-0 to win the Champions Trophy on Sunday.

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PSG’s central defense has been strengthened by the arrival of Nordi Mückel from German club Leipzig. This should take some pressure off the midfield and free up Verratti to move up the field with Messi to open the defence.

With Messi checking in from the right, working more as a producer in a system where Mbappe plays as the lead scorer should be able to save energy.

This could be good news for Argentina.

PSG’s Rivals

PSG remain the favorites and are not a serious challenger like last year. The fight for second place and automatic entry into the Champions League is likely to be between Marseille, Monaco and Lyon.

Marseille has a new coach in Igor Tudor, but he’s still probably up on the old legs of playwright Dmitry Pet.

The arrival of the new American owner of Lyon, John Textor, The match coincides with the return of two home players at midfielder Corentin Tolisso and forward Alexandre Lacazette with Bayern Munich and Arsenal respectively.

Monaco excelled under aggressive-minded coach Philippe Clement last season. But like Marseille, the club relies heavily on one player, France forward Wissam Ben Yedder.

His 25 league goals last season was second only to Mbappe’s 28.

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