It was worth the wait, but finally, Lionel Messi has shown us what can he do in PSG's colors in Ligue 1. Probably the most influential player in the 3-1 win against Nantes for Mauricio Pochettino's team, not only with the goal but with his involvement in the attacking play, creating three chances in the match, tied with Kylian Mbappé.
But how was Messi's game if we scratch below the surface?
We can call this game a "vintage Messi match". Or a least, it was the most similar to what we have seen from the Rosario-born player over the last couple of years with Barcelona and Argentina. One of the most interesting observations is how it looks that he's finally part of Pochettino's system.
This is important because it's symbiotic: The ex-Tottenham and Southampton boss prefers his teams to attack narrowly, with the so-called wingers (they're actually inside forwards) cutting inside allowing space for the overlapping full-backs. And that's what happened yesterday, Achraf Hakimi understood what to do, Mbappé understood where to make his runs, because Messi also likes to drift inside, going from right to center.
An easy way to see this is the average positioning of the players: on paper Neymar and Messi were wide, but were they? Most of their touches were central, in fact, in what it's called the "half-space", or that little room between center back and full back.
This drifting inside allowed Messi to be influential in a number of ways that can be proved with some numbers: He was the player with most shots (6), higher xG (0.84), the highest number of touches (114), passes in the final third (31), and had a 90% passing accuracy, which is high for a forward.
The touch map from Messi is perhaps the clearest way to visualize how he was all over the final third of the pitch:
Messi's interaction with his teammates in the attack was quite clear, as you can check in the video below:
For more tactical breakdowns like this, don't miss Ligue 1 Live every Sunday at 4:45PM ET / 1:45PM PT on beIN SPORTS.