PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino has backed Lionel Messi to silence his doubters in a 'completely different' second season at the Parc des Princes.
Messi joined PSG from Barcelona last summer, having spent his entire career at the Catalan club, and the Argentine attacker has not hit the dizzying heights he achieved at Camp Nou.
The 34-year-old has nine goals in total, with only four in Ligue 1, but has racked up 13 assists in a deeper role for the French champions.
The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was whistled by fans at the Parc des Princes in the aftermath of PSG's Champions League exit to Real Madrid and criticism from the media has also been frequent.
But Pochettino told RMC: "You can't talk about Messi in this way. It's like when I'm talking about [Diego] Maradona. I'm not talking about an ordinary player. Messi is at the same level as Diego Maradona.
"It is clear that the move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain was a change in which a process of adaptation was necessary. Some circumstances did not allow him to feel as comfortable as he was in Barcelona, where he had spent 20 years. Where he had been the club's flag-bearer.
"Judging Messi in this way is unfair."
Messi signed a two-year deal with PSG, with the option of one more after that, and therefore might find it difficult if he wants to leave Paris this summer.
But Pochettino, whose own future in Paris is uncertain after the team's problems in 2021-22, believes he will stay and that the club will see a different Messi next season.
"I have no doubt about his quality," he said.
"Messi has enough talent to do what he has to do. He's going to do it. Next season will be a completely different season for him.
"This was a year of learning, not only at the professional level by coming to Paris Saint-Germain, in a new championship and with new team-mates, but also on a family level.
"This must be taken into account. It is a major upheaval that can affect a player."
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Ben Hayward is Weekend Editor for FourFourTwo. A European football writer with over 15 years’ experience, he has covered games all over the world - including three World Cups, several Champions League finals, Euros, Copa América - and has spent much of that time in Spain. He currently divides his time between Barcelona and London.
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