Just three games in and Lionel Messi’s new chapter at Paris Saint-Germain has already taken a difficult turn.
Messi was hauled off by his manager after 75 minutes of their clash with Lyon on Sunday, with the scores level at 1-1 and the tie far from over.
His displeasure at the decision was immediately clear, as he made a confused gesture to Pochettino before opting against shaking his hand.
The 34-year-old then sat watching the remainder of the match from the subs’ bench with an impressed look across his face.
His expression failed to get much better even when Mauro Icardi – who entered the field after Messi’s departure – fired home a late winner to snatch all the points for PSG right at the death.
The rest of the PSG staff and players on the bench were all jubilant in celebration following the goal, getting up off their seats to cheer with arms held aloft.
Meanwhile, Messi could not even be seen behind a crowd of bodies as he remained rooted to his seat, only eventually poking his head above the melee to give a solemn clap.
His reaction paled in comparison to that of team-mate Ander Herrera sat alongside him, who looked to be kicking every ball from the sidelines and pumped his fists emphatically whereas Messi barely even flinched.
The response may well be a concern for Pochettino, though he did not seem phased by Messi’s earlier snub on the touchline.
“I took the decision to take Leo off to protect him for possible injuries, the PSG boss explained. “We have important games coming up and we want to protect him.
“These are decisions that we make for the good of the team.
“Everyone knows we have great players, we have to make choices. Sometimes it may appeal, other times a little less.
“Afterwards, Messi told me he was fine with the decision.”
Naturally it may be taking Messi a little longer to settle into his new surroundings after his career-long spell with Barcelona came to end abruptly and against his wishes.
Messi is yet to score in any of his three appearances for PSG thus far, and former Barca team-mate Thierry Henry believes it is that which will have been the main cause of his frustration.
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Asked if he was surprised by Messi’s reaction, Henry told Amazon Prime: “No, not really. It does not surprise me. Maybe he didn’t want to go off.
“We don’t know what they’re saying to each other. Let’s not start any controversy. He surely wanted to stay on the pitch so he could score.
“But it will come, it will come. It takes time to adapt even for the best player in the world.”
Messi did at least get plenty of applause from the crowd, which is less than can be said for team-mate Kylian Mbappe, who was booed and jeered by his own supporters amid his ongoing contract standoff.