World Cup

Messi’s defensive work not up for debate – Pochettino

As Lionel Messi prepares to skipper Argentina into the World Cup final against France on Sunday, former PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino has argued it is silly to question his defensive play.

Despite the fact that Messi is tied for the World Cup’s top scorer and assist provider, there is still considerable debate about his position on the field as he attempts to lead his team to a third championship.

“Honestly, I think the debate about Messi’s defensive work is stale, almost silly,” Argentine Pochettino, who coached Messi at PSG, told The Athletic.

“You can’t pretend that Maradona or Pele – along with Messi, the most important players in football – were focused on trying to win the ball back. He can’t participate in that. He just needs others to run for him,” the coach added.

“When you have Messi, you need the other players to understand that they have to take the ball and give it to him so he can keep his energy and then be decisive, as it shows.”

“The point with Messi is that he does not need to press. You need the other players to understand that they need to recover the ball and give it to him.

Pochettino also commended Lionel Scaloni, the team’s coach, for creating a sense of camaraderie around Messi.

“That’s the most important thing about this Argentina team and the reason why they are in the final. It’s because the players understand their roles perfectly. When you have Messi on your team, you must run for him.”

Argentina will play France in their sixth World Cup final as they attempt to win their first championship since 1986. Messi will captain Argentina.

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