Former Paris St Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino has said it is absurd to debate Lionel Messi’s defensive work as the Argentina captain gets ready to lead his side into the World Cup final against France on Sunday.
Messi is the joint top scorer and assist provider at the World Cup, but there has still been some discussion about his role on the pitch as he looks to guide his team to a third World Cup title.
“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.”
Pochettino also praised coach Lionel Scaloni for fostering a sense of unity 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.”
Messi’s Argentina will appear in their sixth World Cup final when they face France, as they look to claim a first title since 1986.