Lionel Messi, the return to normal

Like a feeling of deja vu. On Saturday against Nice, Lionel Messi gave the air of Camp Nou to the Parc des Princes. On a free kick in line 20 meters from the Nice goal, the Pulga makes his velvet foot speak. With a caress enveloped in an irrepressible effect, the Parisian number 30 left the Riviera goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel speechless and found the skylight to open the scoring. Kicks like that, Messi has offered FC Barcelona for nearly 15 years. This magnificent goal sounds like a confirmation of his current form: yes, the Argentine is back.

Having landed in the capital as the new jewel of Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, the seven-time Ballon d’Or will have had a frustrating first exercise in many ways. Before him, he had to digest the emotional weight of his departure from FC Barcelona, ​​his life-long club. As if it were harder for a football alien to be, as it often has been, to suddenly be a little more human. A year later, Messi seems more satisfied, happier on the pitch. And this changes everything.

Leo is fine“, estimated his coach Christophe Galtier on Saturday, after his team’s 2-1 win against Gym.”It animates the game and is very generous. He scored a lot of goals, but last season had some extenuating circumstances. There, he regains the taste for goals. He has prepared well, the relationship he has with his partners in the training sessions suggests that he is happy and when he is happy he performs and regains the standards he had throughout his career.

This joy of playing, Galtier is no stranger to it. The coach put the Argentine in the best conditions to shine on the pitch. Often confined to the right side last season, Lionel Messi is now at the center of the Parisian offensive animation. From the magical trio with Neymar and Mbappé, it is from him that the creative spark springs to launch the attack on PSG. A facilitator role perfectly suited to his qualities and which 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)

It was from one of his foot ball runs that Niçois Dante’s fault came, then Saturday’s superb free-kick. The kind of breakthrough that became possible again at the end of a full, regular preseason. “Will he be the best player in the world again? Yes, if it is in incredible shapeChristophe Galtier retorted on Saturday. And it is well prepared.

The numbers are unequivocal about his participation in the master game. He manages 1.7 more passes in the opponent’s area per game, and two “progressive passes”, these transmissions that allow you to gain at least ten meters, compared to last season. It’s simple, no player in Europe does much better in the five major European leagues.

More present around the door, Lionel Messi is also all the more dangerous. He is the player who has attempted the most shots in the five major leagues this season and the one he has framed the most. Scorer in the last five games with PSG and Argentina, decisive twice in the same game in half of his official matches since the beginning of the season, Messi finds this statistical appetite as in the best moments of him in Barcelona. The man who had coughed at his debut with two goals and three assists after the first eleven games of last season, in the league and in C1, in 2022 already has six wins and eight offers in the same phase.

PSG asked for nothing less. A third win in three games at Benfica on Wednesday would secure a little more of the Parisian task in this first stage of the Champions League, the club’s main goal.

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