Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino has revealed that he withdrew Lionel Messi at half-time of Friday's 2-1 win over Lille to protect him from injury.
Messi started in attack for PSG but endured arguably the worst 45 minutes of his entire career, fluffing two shots on goal and failing to complete a single dribble before being hooked for Mauro Icardi at the interval.
It was a change which inspired the comeback as late goals from Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria saw PSG pick up a nervy win.
As always, the decision to withdraw Messi was a controversial one from Pochettino, but the boss revealed after the game that it was more down to injury concerns than anything else.
“We have to wait. We spoke with the doctor. It’s a precaution," he told Amazon Prime (via Goal). "He couldn't go on, but it's not a big issue. He will be available for the next game."
The decision to start Messi in the first place has to come into question as the 34-year-old suffered a knock in the build-up to the game and had missed training because of it, and he looked noticeably off the pace from the get-go.
Despite having three goals in the Champions League to his name, Messi's wait to open his Ligue 1 account continues. He's now gone five league games without a goal, the kind of drought he hasn't endured since October 2020.
When asked whether he felt playing a natural striker like Icardi was better for the team, Pochettino responded: “I don't think that was the problem in the first half. It's just that Lille knows us well. We weren't good enough to feed our offensive players and have control of the game. But I don't think it's a single player or a position that changes everything.
"Overall I think we deserved to win. It's an option to play [a three-man defence next time], to find different ways to play. We can adapt to this system. But it's good to be flexible. Sometimes the starting plan doesn't work and I'm happy to have that option for players with different characteristics. But we have to keep working on it.”