Watching Lionel Messi in flesh these days is almost as much an experience for the ears as it is for the eyes. You don’t need to see the ball is in Messi because you can hear him. Sometimes, you can feel it. The low roar of fear that pervades a packed stadium and thousands of shoulders tense up as they leap into space.
Even before the match, the sound that welcomes Messi is different from the sound offered to other players. When the Paris Saint-Germain roster was announced Wednesday night before kick-off in Bruges, its ten players were booed by Club Brugge fans. The other, the little one, got applause instead and got more than a few applauses.
Such a reaction is not gifted, but it is earned. And Messi has done more than most, if not all, anyone in sports history to earn the accolades he sees wherever he goes. it was a similar story In his first match for PSG, against Reims, when the away crowd said his name like one. After the match, the Reims goalkeeper threw his young son into Messi’s arms and quickly snapped a photo.
The concept of hostile away fixtures, it seems, no longer applies to Messi. If the same were true for their other teammates, PSG would be even more of an overwhelming Champions League favorite than they are now. Unfortunately for Mauricio Pochettino, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and others, life is not that simple.
Messi’s debut for his new club and his first appearance with both Neymar and Mbappe provided promising glimpses of what could be done with such strike power. PSG took the lead with Ander Herrera after producing a stunning quality weaving work by Mbappe. Messi hit the post with a curling effort after Neymar deftly twisted the ball into his path. When they merged, PSG flowed.
But they didn’t meet as often, and PSG spent most of this game under considerable pressure – against the supposedly weakest opponent of their Champions League groupies. The world’s best attack on paper, it seems, will not immediately become the world’s best attack.
That doesn’t mean the strikers are weak. No one can jump from motionless to monster like Messi, who comes to life inside his body as if a button has been pressed. Still, PSG struggled for fluency and the forwards inevitably lacked the appetite for defense. It will give Pochettino goosebumps to see Messi and Neymar roll into his own half as Brugge attack.