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Monday, November 29, 2021

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe: the lacklustre galacticos

Neymar should have done better when put through after some gorgeous one-touch on the edge of the box. City came perilously close to having to write off another match against PSG as a won argument if not a game, like Jeremy Corbyn in 2019.

Nevertheless it was the cohesive team which came out on top, even without Jack Grealish and Ferran Torres, and with Oleksandr Zinchenko playing the role of Kevin De Bruyne — a capable understudy with the right hair and skin tone, if not the range of passing.

There is more than one way to approach football. Every team does not have to take part in the sponsored Kloppathon of demented pressing. Conserving energy makes sense if you are Lionel Messi, and is something he has been doing for more than a decade. Who are we to argue with his returns?

The trouble is that a modern top-level team can afford to carry a maximum of one player who visibly powers down when off the ball. Even then things can get dysfunctional quickly, as shown by Ronaldo 2.0 at Manchester United.

Who at PSG will be brave enough to stir the three-pronged cash cow at the top of the team? The responsibility surely falls on Mauricio Pochettino, who must find a way to explain that ambling around without the ball might be acceptable in Ligue 1 but will not be a path to Champions League success.

It cannot be much fun managing this team. Little wonder Pochettino is yet to shut down rumours decisively about his departure.

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