Sunday, July 21, 2024

Olympique Marseille 0-3 Paris Saint-Germain: Talking points as Messi and Mbappe demolish Velodrome

Veselin Trajkovic in Editorial, Ligue 1 27 Feb 2023

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Paris Saint-Germain made a big step towards keeping the Ligue 1 title at the end of the season on Sunday, beating second-place Olympique Marseille at the Velodrome in style as the stars of the World Cup final, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, put on a show to remember.

Messi and Mbappe

Messi assisted Mbappe for the opening goal 25th minute and it took the young Frenchman just four minutes to return the favour, before Messi produced a proper piece of magic to set Mbappe up for the third goal in the 55th minute.

It remains to be seen if this magical duo will play together after this season, so the world should enjoy their spellwork while it can. Messi’s contract expires at the end of the season and while there have been reports of a renewal being likely, it hasn’t happened yet. Mbappe, meanwhile, was a significant target for Real Madrid a year ago, but then he chose to sign a new three-year deal with the French champions instead.

A 35-year-old playmaker with more than 1000 goals and over 550 assists for Barcelona, PSG and Argentina, and with every trophy he ever competed for safely on his shelf, along with a record of seven Ballon d’Or awards, Messi is truly the greatest player of his generation and one of the greatest of all time.

A 24-year-old goalscorer who won the World Cup at 20 and played in another final a couple of months ago, a player with impeccable physical attributes for an attacker who can play across the front line for any team in the world as a starter, a joint top-scorer in the history of PSG, Mbappe is probably the perfect man to play alongside the Argentinian superstar.

No Neymar, no problem?

Neymar missed this game, probably the one that will prove to have been the decisive moment in the title race, with an ankle injury, his fourth such problem in as many years. And while seeing Messi and Mbappe combine like they were born to play together may have put a smile on everyone else connected to PSG, for the Brazilian, it will only have made the pain in his ankle feel worse. He missed the game, but the game didn’t miss him at all.

At the age of 31, it’s fair to say that Neymar hasn’t really lived up to his potential. He’s a brilliant individual on a football pitch and can do pretty much anything with the ball, which is why many see him as a beacon of Brazilian football, like Pele, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho undoubtedly were in their days. But football is a team sport, and Neymar obviously hasn’t been able to inspire the kind of success everyone at PSG have been hoping for; first of all, Champions League glory.

Once the most expensive player ever, the €222million signing which arrived to the Parc des Princes from Barcelona in 2017 could well be on his way out of the French capital at the end of the season.

A year after Neymar’s arrival, PSG signed Mbappe from Monaco and the press around Europe has been full of stories about alleged issues between the two ever since. Presuming he left Barcelona to escape Messi’s shadow and lead a team of his own to glory, the free transfer of Messi himself in 2021 to the club must’ve been a huge blow to his hopes as well.

It’s hard to tell at this point what exactly the future holds for Neymar, but it seems obvious that Messi and Mbappe work better without him.

The game

Interestingly enough, it was Marseille who enjoyed the bigger possession percentage (54) in this contest, and took more shots than the visitors (19-12). They even took significantly more corners and showed more aggression by committing more fouls, and it’s not as if they didn’t have chances of their own. It’s just that in those moments, Gianluigi Donnarumma in the PSG goal showed his class with a total of six saves, some of them really difficult ones.

Apart from a few clever attempts, not much was seen from former Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United star Alexis Sanchez. Marseille coach Igor Tudor deployed Matteo Guendouzi in a more advanced role, tasking him with supporting Sanchez upfront together with Ruslan Malinovskyi, and the former Arsenal midfielder didn’t cover himself in glory either.

The home side never looked like they had the flow of the game under control, or the ability to prune the attacking might of the champions. It looked like PSG could create a chance at any moment, practically at will, and the fact that Christophe Galtier’s team deserved the triumph cannot be disputed.

Is the race over?

It most likely is.

This was the moment which could’ve opened it up completely and made it extremely interesting. Had Marseille won, the gap would now be just two points wide. As it is, PSG lead the way by eight, which goes a long way to explain why matches like this won are often described as “six-pointers”.

There is still 13 rounds to be played and that’s the hope Marseille must cling on to now, but in all fairness, if they can fend off third-place Monaco and fourth-place Lens in their respective attempts to finish second and qualify for next season’s Champions League, both just two points behind, it’ll probably be all Tudor’s men can do.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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