Mauricio Pochettino’s first news conference as Paris Saint-Germain coach was dominated by questions about a player every club in the world dreams of having.
But Pochettino was not interested in discussions about Lionel Messi, the Barcelona star who is out of contract at the end of the season and free to talk to other clubs this month.
Instead, he is solely focused on the task in front of him, getting the best out of one of the elite squads in European football after receiving a late Christmas present of a return to a club he once graced as a player.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with Saint-Etienne, Pochettino – who officially replaced Thomas Tuchel on Saturday – said: “Father Christmas has already given me a gift, this fantastic club.
“It is incredible for us and it is the chance for me to fulfil a dream by rejoining the club where I played 20 years ago. We are very aware that it is a huge challenge and there are huge demands at PSG.”
The former Tottenham boss batted off several questions about Messi, with transfer talk not high on the agenda as he looks to make a winning start to his reign at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
“We have been trying to adapt to a new club and we have had to prepare for tomorrow’s game, which is the principal objective of winning tomorrow,” he added.
“We have time to talk like that in the future. Any big player in the world, I think, will always be welcome at Paris Saint-Germain.”
Messi has been consistently linked with a move to the Parc des Princes, with speculation further fuelled by PSG star Neymar expressing his desire to reunite with his former Barca team-mate.
For Pochettino, though, his immediate task is to get the best out of both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, France’s World Cup-winning hero the top scorer in Ligue 1 this season with 12 goals.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) January 3, 2021
“Over time, as I work with the squad, we will find the position where he can perform at his best,” Pochettino said of Neymar.
“The big player like Kylian can play in different spaces on the pitch. The most important is how he is going to feel on the pitch and how he is going to attack the space.
“Our aim and our challenge is to put them in the best position and in the best situation where they can be decisive. That is the most important challenge for us and for our coaching staff.”
Saint-Etienne will aim to stop one of the most feared forward lines in the world hitting the ground running under Pochettino, with Les Verts boss Claude Puel a familiar face to Pochettino.
Former Southampton and Leicester City manager Puel has faced Pochettino six times, with the Argentinian victorious in all but one encounter.
Still, Pochettino expects a testing start to his reign, saying: “We have faced each other in England so it will be a tough game. We are very excited to get our time in France under way.”
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