- ‘Any big player in the world is welcome,’ says Pochettino
- Barcelona attacker is out of contract in summer
Mauricio Pochettino has left open the possibility of Lionel Messi joining him at Paris Saint-Germain by saying “any big player in the world is welcome”.
At his first press conference as PSG manager, Pochettino was asked whether he would speak to his fellow Argentinian this month about moving to France when the player’s contract at Barcelona is due to expire after this season.
Rumours of such a move have long been in circulation and Pochettino did not quash them. “To be honest, we are not talking about that,” he said on Tuesday, three days after confirmation of his appointment. “We have just arrived and it’s been a crazy period, trying to adapt to a new club. We’ve had lots of meetings, training sessions and are preparing for a game [at Saint-Étienne on Wednesday]. For sure we are going to have time to talk about everything. At Paris Saint‑Germain any big player in the world is, I think, welcome.”
At an unveiling in which he revealed little, Pochettino, who spent two years at PSG as a player, spoke in Spanish and English but avoided answering questions about transfer bids for Dele Alli or Christian Eriksen, with whom he enjoyed working at Tottenham. But he made no effort to mask his excitement at taking charge of PSG, his first job since leaving Spurs in November 2019. “Father Christmas was very good to me this year,” he said with a broad smile.
After the Ligue 1 matches against Saint-Étienne and then Brest on Saturday, Pochettino will have an opportunity to win the first trophy of his managerial career next Wednesday when PSG face Marseille in the Trophée des Champions, France’s equivalent of the Community Shield. But the 48‑year‑old is in no doubt his primary mission is to turn PSG into European champions. They will meet Barcelona and Messi in the last 16, with the first leg in Spain on 16 February.
“For PSG, as with any big club, the Champions League is the most important competition, though the others are also important. Of course it’s a massive challenge. Next month looks far away but the most important thing is for us to arrive for the match at our best. We are really confident. We have an unbelievable squad. This is the moment to try to build, get to know each other and adapt quickly. For sure we are going to arrive at our best and with the aim of winning and going farther,” said Pochettino, who must cope with a raft of injuries in his first week. Neymar is one of several players unavailable for the trip to Saint-Étienne.
Pochettino’s success at PSG will depend to a large extent on his ability to get the best out of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, ideally while helping to persuade each of them to sign new contracts, with their current deals expiring next year. He refused to specify how he intended to deploy each player, saying only he hoped to use every player “in a way that allows them to best express their potential”, adding that “in modern football every team has to be flexible”.
He did, however, confirm Marquinhos would remain the club’s captain, though he did not say whether he viewed the Brazilian primarily as a defender or a midfielder. Pochettino’s predecessor, Thomas Tuchel, was often criticised for deploying Marquinhos in midfield.
PSG’s previous two managers – Tuchel and Unai Emery – each arrived at PSG preaching high-intensity, attacking styles in which the collective force would be stronger than individual talents. Both ultimately failed and wound up frustrated, with inconsistent, ambiguous teams. Asked whether he thought he could work successfully with demanding superstars, Pochettino replied: “We have worked with great players before.”
His backroom staff at PSG will include the same coaches who supported him at Spurs, Jesus Pérez, Miguel D’Agostino and the goalkeeper coach, Toni Jiménez, plus his son, the sports scientist Sebastiano. Asked to compare PSG with the Premier League club, Pochettino replied. “It is difficult for us to be objective about Tottenham because it is still very much in our hearts and we left with unbelievable memories. But now is the moment to be 100% focused on PSG.”