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‘We are seeing the real Messi’ - Myths around Argentina superstar rubbished by Pochettino

11:39 AM GMT 16/12/2022
Lionel Messi Argentina Croatia 2022 World Cup
Mauricio Pochettino says “we are seeing the real Lionel Messi” at the 2022 World Cup, with “myths” regarding a lack of leadership being rubbished.
  • Albiceleste into 2022 World Cup final
  • Talismanic captain leading the way
  • Seeking to emulate efforts of Maradona

WHAT HAPPENED? The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has never been the most vocal in public, with Messi preferring to do his talking out on the pitch. He is, however, captain of his country – as they chase down World Cup glory in Qatar – and Pochettino believes his fellow countryman is proving that he does have the character to go with his sublime ability.

WHAT THEY SAID: Ex-Argentina international Pochettino, who managed Messi at Paris Saint-Germain, has told The Athletic of the global superstar who is illuminating the historic event in the Middle East: “It’s not just the performances, which are what we expect. People think he is quiet, but sometimes what you perceive from the outside is wrong. He has a very strong character. He doesn’t talk too much, but he talks when he needs to. Maybe we see him talking more now because of the cameras and the technology.

“We are seeing the real Messi. He was always like this. People like to talk in myths and we all know there are a lot of those in football. Right now, Messi is performing at his best in every single area, and when you have that on your side, only good things can happen.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Pochettino added on Messi’s ability to pull others along with him, much like 1986 World Cup hero Diego Maradona once did: “He knows exactly how he needs to behave, not only on the pitch but off it as well. And I think that leadership he is showing is why people finally believe this could be the time when the World Cup comes back to Argentina. You can see it in how he manages the game, how he talks with the referees, with Lionel Scaloni, even with the opponents. After the quarter-final against the Netherlands, when Argentina won on penalties, I heard some people comparing Messi’s leadership with the leadership that Maradona used to show. Messi is now the leader that Argentina need, and for me, that is a massive step for him.”

IN THREE PHOTOS:

WHAT NEXT? Messi is currently readying himself for a World Cup final showdown with France on Sunday, with the 35-year-old having already announced that said outing will be his last at FIFA’s flagship event.