Lionel Messi disappears! Winners and losers as fans whistle superstar in another PSG home defeat

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Lionel Messi 2022-23
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An ineffective Paris Saint-Germain created little and were made to pay by a clinical Lyon in their fifth Ligue 1 loss of 2023.

The boos rang around Parc des Princes at full-time as Lionel Messi strolled off the pitch. And PSG's notoriously passionate ultras had reason aplenty to be upset. They had put up with a miserable Paris showing, watching their World Cup winner unceremoniously exit after turning in a drab showing in a 1-0 loss to a mid-table Lyon side.

There is unlikely to be much jeopardy in the rest of PSG's season. They have a healthy lead atop Ligue 1, and after being bounced from both the cup and Champions League, are only expected to see out the campaign.

But that doesn't mean it's not without drama. Messi has been linked with a sensational return to Barcelona, and parts of the Paris crowd made their feelings known about their superstar with constant jeers. And his team didn't do much to help him, either.

Lyon took the lead in the second half, with substitute Bradley Barcola sneaking in at the back post to finish a sweeping counter-attack — a deserved opener from a well-drilled opponent.

The last time PSG went behind at home, they were ineffective in their search for an equaliser. And it was the same case here. Manager Christophe Galtier made a few attacking changes, while Messi picked up pockets of space. But the Parisians rarely tested Anthony Lopes, with a deflected strike that required a diving stop the closest PSG came to a real threat.

PSG will likely still see out the league, and were done a favour by Montpellier, who scraped a point against Marseille on Friday. But it's not going to be pretty, especially if these performances continue.

GOAL breaks down the winners & losers from Parc des Princes...

  1. WINNER: Bradley Barcola
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    WINNER: Bradley Barcola

    He wasn't even supposed to be on the pitch.

    The mercurial Barcola was benched for the first time since February 17, with manager Laurent Blanc leaving the pacy attacker out of his XI. And after Barola entered play for the injured Amin Sarr, he made his case for a regular start. Barcola was impactful from his first few minutes on the pitch, terrorising the languid Danilo Pereira with his electric pace and trickery.

    And it was that athleticism that provided Lyon's opening goal. Barcola dashed in front of Achraf Hakimi to meet a cross at the back post and finished calmly across a sprawling Gianluigi Donnarumma. He could have added a second shortly after, cutting inside Pereira and firing on goal — but the keeper made a neat stop to keep him out.

  2. LOSER: Lionel Messi
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    LOSER: Lionel Messi

    The Barca links can't have helped, but it is slightly baffling to see Messi this sloppy. Usually so smooth and reliable on the ball, the forward surrendered possession three times within the first 20 minutes, including a blunder inside the Lyon box that saw a promising counter fall apart.

    There were further mistakes, too. The Argentine consistently saw the ball trickle away from his reliable left foot and also blasted a shot over from long-range in a desperate attempt to make something happen late. As the contest drew to a close, Messi was jeered whenever he touched the ball by PSG's passionate ultras. Perhaps a move away is in everyone's best interests at this point.

  3. WINNER: Laurent Blanc
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    WINNER: Laurent Blanc

    The first time these two sides met this season, back in September, Lyon could have felt hard done by the result. They conceded an early goal, and had their chances, but fell to a frustrating 1-0 loss. That was under fomer manager Peter Bosz, though. This is a new era.

    And Blanc clearly knew how to make things happen against his former club. Lyon were bold here, with the away side unafraid to challenge a makeshift PSG backline. He was happy to go long and use the hold-up abilities of Alex Lacazette to allow his side to saunter forward. Meanwhile, he was sturdy at the back, and ensured that Mbappe was always double-teamed. It all amounted to an opportunistic goal and stout defensive showing.

    It is, admittedly, rather easy to take points away from PSG these days. Still, Blanc had the perfect plan to do so. It must have been all the sweeter for the fact that it came against his old club.

  4. LOSER: Kylian Mbappe
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    LOSER: Kylian Mbappe

    Can this really be the same player that dominated the Netherlands a week ago? Are we sure that the real Mbappe is not hiding somewhere, disguised?

    Some players operate more effectively in certain systems, and Mbappe has always been electric for France. But this sort of drop off is near hard to believe. Mbappe was wasteful and lacking in direction against Lyon. He tried to break out the signature moves and darting runs, but found himself swarmed every time. And it led to a selfishness of sorts, the player refusing to pass and instead going alone on a few occasions.

    The loss cannot be entirely pinned on him, but the change in quality that comes with a switch in badge is alarming.

  5. WINNER: Barcelona
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    WINNER: Barcelona

    Barcelona went public with their intention to bring Messi back to the club on Friday, with vice-president Rafa Yuste announcing that they are in negotiations with Messi's father about a new deal. And with every PSG loss, it seems more and more likely that Messi will return to Catalonia.

    There is, at this point, little in the way of something to believe in for the 35-year-old. Given his age, he is perhaps too old to partake in the next wave — should PSG opt to rebuild. Meanwhile, his legs are an imperfect fit in the side. And now PSG's Ligue 1 title hopes are now slightly under threat, an extension seems increasingly unlikely.

    Whether he came to Paris for success is up for debate, but it seems that only winning is likely to keep him there. And Barcelona, for better or worse, will reap the rewards.

  6. LOSER: Christophe Galtier
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    LOSER: Christophe Galtier

    What else is he supposed to do?

    Yes, Galtier has been unlucky with injuries, inconsistent with his tactics, and unable to keep his triad of unpredictable superstars happy. But is it not possible that the manager is just out of his depth at this point?

    Galtier has been in title races before — and won them, for that matter — but he's never been at a club like this. Winning is now an expectation, and even the least convincing victories are called into question. It's losses like this, then, that really hurt.

    PSG were poor on Sunday evening, and even his superstars went quiet. Galtier panicked, making a series of inconsistent substitutions in a hopeless attempt to change his team's fortunes.

    With PSG notorious for changing their managers with a certain ruthlessness, it's absolutely vital that Galtier shows more promise on the sidelines in order to keep his job. This one was a thorough presentation as to why he might be better off away from Parc des Princes next year.