Lionel Messi, Mauricio Pochettino and the precarious power balance at PSG

Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino are not close, and there has sometimes been enmity between the two men, but there is one issue they could find common ground over in the pleasantries after Tuesday’s game: the occasionally awkward challenge of managing Lionel Messi.

For all their sensational success together at Barcelona, Messi and Guardiola didn’t exactly have a relationship like Sir Alex Ferguson and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Catalan had even agonised over whether City should go for him when a deal looked on at various points over the past two years. The reasons for that are maybe not as expected, though.

The story of a young Messi opening a Pepsi can when Guardiola told him not to is by now well-rehearsed, but that is because it is such a rare example of outright insubordination. The reality is that the playmaker was a different character then, who wasn’t anywhere near as health-conscious as he is now.

He is also more conscious of his own influence now. Several sources who know Messi say he does not flex his power much but well knows how to wield it. It can often be as simple as a glance. Two very different figures give almost identical assessments.

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