Watching Lionel Messi substituted, particularly when his team were in need of a goal, is strange.
One of the greatest players of all time and a man who has so often saved the day for both club and country over the course of his glittering career, taking him off early doesn’t seem like the best idea when chasing a game.
Still, that’s what Mauricio Pochettino chose to do during Paris Saint-Germain‘s game with Lyon and, while controversial, the manager was vindicated as replacement Mauro Icardi netted a late winner.
Much has been made about Messi’s reaction in that he at least appeared to refuse to shake hands with Pochettino when making his way onto the bench. While it would be tempting to read deeply into the power dynamics in the French capital, perhaps it’s to be expected.
A relentless winning machine, it’s only natural Messi would feel frustrated about coming off early when his team are in need.
In fact, it’s a departure from some of his antics in the past.
Former manager Luis Enrique appears to call the forward over during a La Liga game with Eibar in an effort to rest him, given his side were already 3-0 up.
Indeed, they claim ‘La Sexta’s’ coverage picked up Enrique saying: ‘Leo, Leo” before Messi turned his back on the manager, who then took Neymar off instead while looking annoyed about the whole situation.
You can watch the footage below (via YouTube).
Marca’s article also reveals that the likes of Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova and Tata Martino all experienced difficulty when trying to substitute Messi.
Naturally, as one of the best players to ever grace the game, Messi will be convinced he needs to be on the pitch at all times to give his team the best possible chance of success.
Now, it’s up to Pochettino to try and convince him otherwise.