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Mauricio Pochettino Stands by His Decision to Yank Lionel Messi, Says He is the Manager

Mauricio Pochettino Stands by His Decision to Yank Lionel Messi, Says He is the Manager

If you are tied at home with 15 minutes left in a match that everyone is expecting you to win, most coaches would rather Lionel Messi on the pitch to deliver some unexpected magic.

But, Paris Saint-Germain’s Mauricio Pochettino is not such a coach.

Pochettino made one of the most talked-about moves of PSG’s season when he decided to yank Messi in the 76th minute of a French Ligue 1 match against Lyon.

The score was 1-1 when the Argentine coach opted to bring in Achraf Hakimi in place of one of the world’s greatest players. The problem was that Messi wasn’t exactly on board with it.

In the 72nd minute, cameras showed Messi flexing his left knee as if it were giving him problems just moments before the substitution. But those same cameras also showed him flashing a thumbs-up signal in the direction of the bench, indicating that he’d be just fine.

With all eyes on Messi in his first match at his new home stadium, the Parc des Princes, he wasn’t about to leave the field with the game on the line. But his coach took care of that for him moments later.

Why was Messi’s substitution so controversial?

Messi’s exchange with his coach as he came off the field is probably best described as terse. It wasn’t your typical sub and his teammates on the bench seemed to pick up on it.

“These are decisions one has to make for the team,” Pochettino told media postgame, according to a translation of his comments from French. “Everybody knows we have great players, but one has to make choices. Sometimes decisions are positive or not, but that’s why you have a manager: to make decisions. You can agree with [a decision] or not. I asked [Messi] how he was and he said to me that he was OK, no problems.

“Everybody knows that Messi is a great player. There are five subs (available) and it’s obvious that players never like to come off the field. One has to make decisions. I’m on the bench to make decisions. His reaction? Fine, no worries.”

What’s most interesting about Pochettino’s comments is that they really didn’t indicate he made the substitu out of an abundance of caution for Messi’s left knee. It seemed as if it was a tactical decision.

 

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