Paris Saint-Germain manager Christophe Galtier has revealed that he asks his squad to ‘play for Lionel Messi’ after the Argentine inspired Saturday’s 2-1 win over Toulouse.
With both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe out injured, Messi was the only remaining member of PSG’s superstar trio but he still managed to make the telling contribution, firing home from long range to secure a nervy victory.
After the game, Galtier admitted that he allows Messi to abandon a number of off-ball duties to preserve his energy, challenging the rest of the players to support the 35-year-old.
“Lionel Messi was a very important engine, like his goal and the situations he created,” Galtier said. “I ask the team to play for Leo and work for him. He must be exempted from certain tasks.
“His partners must redouble their efforts to recover and create movement so that he distils passes, which are so rare in today’s football, in such small spaces.”
Messi’s limited off-ball work has divided opinion in recent years. Critics have described the superstar forward as lazy, although others have been quick to point out the method to his madness.
From back in his Barcelona days, Messi’s tendency to stand still was described as a ‘reconnaissance walk’ by former manager Ernesto Valverde in an interview with the Financial Times, with the boss highlighting how Messi scans the pitch to make a mental note of everyone’s positions.
“Then, as the game advances, he gets in little by little,” Valverde explained. “But he knows perfectly where the rivals’ weaknesses are.”