Shortly after the medical press release formalizing the package of Kylian Mbappé, victim of an ENT infection, for the match against Lille, this Friday at the Parc des Princes (9 p.m.), Mauricio Pochettino presented himself at a press conference this Thursday. He spoke of the circumstances before this meeting against the reigning champion, winner of the Champions Trophy in August. Before leaving the room, saluting the translation work of his assistant Miguel D’Agostino: “It is phenomenal! “
What does Mbappé’s absence change? Will Messi play higher?
MAURICIO POCHETTINO. Each player has his influence in the offensive animation. Kylian has a determining influence. But, without it, we have different possibilities. We’ll see what we choose. Leo (Messi) can play in a more advanced position but we have other players for that. Pep (Guardiola) said that Leo could play any position – 9, 7, 11… – because he’s an “elected” player who has this ability to do everything well.
Why was Messi absent from training on Thursday?
He has no problem after Marseille. But today (Thursday) he felt muscle discomfort. As a precaution he trained individually. We hope it will be okay tomorrow (Friday).
How do you see this match against Lille? Like a revenge?
For us, it’s a challenge because Lille is a strong team. If they were champions after 38 days, it is because they deserved it. It’s an important game that will be difficult but our goal is to take all three points.
Why are you playing Messi on the right?
When we talk about a system, 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, that’s a starting point. What matters is the animation. We leave the players free to express their offensive qualities. Leo (Messi) has an impressive reading of the game. In Barcelona, he started on the right side while going towards the center. He can also play in the axis behind an attacker or stall. He is the best player in the world, with his game reading he can play anywhere.
Your predecessor Thomas Tuchel spoke of the post of coach in Paris as a post of Minister of Sports. Is it more complicated to train than you imagined?
I am a person for whom respect is important: the respect not to judge people before knowing them. It is the same for a place. I have lived here at PSG as a player. I do not allow commenting on a colleague’s opinion. But what I can talk about is my experience. We came here to train, to set up a project. My job is to train. There is a line to build. I train 33 players, I create a philosophy. I only focus on the sports part. Nothing else.
Do you find that Neymar’s game has changed since you arrived?
Comparisons and judgments over time are difficult. We always have to take the circumstances into account. We arrived 10 months ago and our desire is still to give Ney the best tools to improve his performance and level. I’m happy with him. Ney is a very creative player, an impressive talent. We know that at the collective or individual level, we can do much better. We are first in the championship or in our Champions League group, of course, but we know that we still have to improve, give more spectacle. Because PSG isn’t just about winning matches, it’s also about putting on a show that lives up to expectations.
Considering his current performance, have you ever considered leaving him on the bench?
From whose point of view? Who says it is less efficient?
That’s the question…
That’s an opinion then, not a question. All players can play, all can be on the bench. We have 33 players who think they can play. The one who is not retained or is replaced is not happy. Modern football is like that. Otherwise we would have to create a rule that says that only 11 players are needed in its squad.
Are you happy with Angel Di Maria and will he take the free kicks again?
It is an individual question but we must look more generally by putting all the elements in a bowl to explain this situation. He arrived late because of the Copa America. He had a different preparation. He was suspended three games in the Champions League. He often goes to selection. And on the other hand, we have 33 players who think they deserve to play. Throughout this salad, when we do an analysis, I’m very satisfied with everyone’s commitment. Angel, if he’s on the pitch, he can take free kicks.