The Argentine was untouchable at Camp Nou but is finding that life in France is not quite the same after being hauled off by Pochettino on Sunday
If Lionel Messi thought his transition from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain was going to be seamless, he will quickly have appreciated that life in the French capital promises to be very different to what he was used to at Camp Nou.
Messi had grown used to being the boss at Barca. More than 20 years at the club, a record number of goals and six Ballon d’Or titles had made him untouchable, a status that remained undiminished in recent years, even in light of the decline of the Catalan side.
At PSG, though, things will not come quite so easy.
If that was not apparent during his brief cameo in a victory over Reims on debut or even as PSG were asphyxiated by Club Brugge in the Champions League and forced to settle for a 1-1 draw, it was made evident in Sunday’s match with Lyon.
Two incidents during the fixture were particularly telling.
Prior to kick off, PSG midfielder Ander Herrera had been asked in an interview with Marca who would take the club’s penalties this season, with Messi vying with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for the responsibility. The Spaniard joked that they might play ‘paper, rock, scissors’ for the honour.
When it came to the crunch against Lyon, though, Neymar simply scooped up the ball and took command of the situation.
That was the first sign that Messi will not hold an untouchable status in his new home.
The second came shortly afterwards as head coach Mauricio Pochettino withdrew him to be replaced by Achraf Hakimi.
This was a particularly stinging blow to the Argentine, who is scantly used to being taken off, much less with the game still in the balance. His withering look to Pochettino was seen by the world while afterwards he was seen in discussion with compatriot Leandro Paredes on the bench.
It proved a successful move by the coach as PSG went on to win the game thanks to a late header from Mauro Icardi after a delicious delivery from Kylian Mbappe, who continues to be the club’s clutch player, having recorded a goal or an assist in every match this season.