We are less than a day away from the showpiece event of the FIFA World Cup 2022. Reigning champions France will lock horns with Argentina at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday.
In what will be a clash of the titans, the focus will be on two players in particular – a certain Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe. One, who is already regarded as the greatest ever to have played the game, and another who aspires to achieve and surpass that status.
Both Messi and Mbappe play together at the club level with Paris Saint-Germain. But on Sunday, they will be lining up against one another for not only the World Cup trophy, but also the Golden Boot, given as both are locked on five goals apiece in the tournament so far.
Ahead of the showdown between the king and his heir, former PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino, one of the two coaches who can claim to have coached both Messi and Mbappe, spoke to La Vanguardia, during which he highlighted the differences between the two players.
“It’s me and the coach who replaced me at PSG, Christophe Galtier. The truth is that it has been a satisfaction and a source of pride to have coached them,” Pochettino said about having managed both Messi and Mbappe.
Touching on what differentiates the two players, the Argentine tactician added: “To begin with, there is an obvious generational difference. Leo Messi is 35 years old and Mbappé is 23.
“The former has won seven Ballon d’Ors and the latter has the chance to win this recognition even though he is already a world champion. I think we are talking about the best, who is Leo Messi, and another who aspires to be the best, who is Mbappe.”
Highlighting the differences between the two in the way they play, Pochettino said: “Mbappe is a player who needs a lot of space to run and Messi is the total player.
“The one who defines in the opponent’s area and the one who plays partnering and defending to generate play. They are two different players for whom anyone who loves soccer would pay a ticket to go see them.”
Pochettino also hailed the way Messi has been performing at this World Cup, likening him to a gladiator for the way he has been carrying himself and the team.
“We’ve already recognized his talent, and we’ve been recognizing it for more than 20 years, right? But well, I think that the leadership and emotional commitment that he is exercising in this World Cup is something that excites all those who love football.
“Now we see a Messi enjoying himself. A Messi who is a gladiator on the field but with an exquisite talent that makes him the best player in the world. Logically, as an Argentinean, you feel that you multiply all those emotions tenfold,” Pochettino said
I think that today Leo is living such a beautiful present and with such an emotional connection with Argentina and the whole soccer world that he is not even thinking about tomorrow.
“After the World Cup, I’m sure he and his people will make the best decision, and as we already know, in soccer the least expected things can happen.”