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“A sort of aura that shakes up everything” … How to coach a legend like Lionel Messi?

Being a coach means doing several jobs at the same time. Technician, tactician, trainer, doctor, handyman sometimes. Psychologist, too. It would even be the main quality required to be part of the gratin, if we are to believe the testimonies of mastodons like Ferguson, Zagallo or Mourinho. The balance of a locker room, the management of egos, personalities, status, playing time, are all daily considerations that can make a team a real war machine or, conversely, a traveling circus.

Sacred mission, which becomes more complex as the workforce goes upmarket. More than once since the start of the season, we’ve tried to put ourselves in Mauricio Pochettino’s shoes, just like that to see. Two Efferalgan later, we realized the obvious. As far as we are concerned, we will stay with Football Manager on the computer.

“These players are very instinctive, almost ‘animal'”

Already not easy to manage with the different geographical influences, about which it would take an entire episode of the Underside of the cards to understand everything, and two beachheads not always excited about the idea of ​​sharing the light (Neymar and Mbappé), the PSG locker room welcomed an extraordinary resident this summer. Lionel Messi is not a star, like the Brazilian or the French. He is beyond this status, a true legend of the game for which there is no operating manual.

“The difficulty with these players is that they are very instinctive, almost” animal “in their relationship to authority, explains Anthony Mette, doctor in psychology and author of All about the ego. Messi has a very particular psychological profile, like all exceptional players, which is not necessarily adapted and adaptable to a collective. When he walks into a locker room, he has a kind of aura, of natural authority, which makes everything shake up. “

And everything that is happening around him is disproportionate. The madness that accompanied his arrival, the reaction of his opponents during his first match in Reims (Rajkovic who puts his child in his arms for a souvenir photo …), the earthquake caused by a simple pout during his replacement against OL, everything is frenzy with the one that nobody imagined seeing one day elsewhere than at Barça.

“No, I’m not hurt, that’s wrong” – FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Mauricio Pochettino, so every word can cause an explosion as far as Qatar, is walking on eggshells. How to do it with the Pulga? Quite a challenge. Pep Guardiola, who knows the rascal rather well, had delivered a few snippets of information in 2012: “Leo, you have to talk to him little, listen carefully to the little he says, and above all, never take him out of the field, not even at the end of the match for a standing ovation, ”he said. If the first part of the sentence is still valid, the second is more and more complicated to grasp over the years. “He can’t run for the sake of running anymore. Managing legends over 30 is the most difficult for coaches, ”said the Catalan in 2019.

According to Anthony Mette, who runs a mental preparation school and works with agents and soccer players, the key to Pochettino lies in his staff. “At this level, you need excellent communication. Not only between the coach and the player, but between the club and the entourage, to never let anger and bitterness take over. It must circulate, between the agents, the parents possibly, the staff, thanks to one or more intermediaries, who make the link between these very closed circles. “

Fini Mel Gibson

Last week, a Spanish colleague recalled the end of the conflicting adventure of the legend of Espanyol Raul Tamudo under the orders of Pochettino, in 2010. The captain of the team for 15 years had been dismissed without the consideration due to his status by one who was only making his second season as head coach. The two men, friends when they were teammates, are still angry today.

“I had my faults in this story. We learn and we improve over time, said the coach to his compatriot Guillem Balague in the book A new world, a sort of private diary of Pochettino in London. Today, with ten years of experience as a coach, I would no longer go shirtless, like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, to attack everyone head-on with my spear. You have to know how to calm your spirits. “

“Let him adapt so that he feels at home”

We do not compare Raul Tamudo and Lionel Messi, obviously, but we must see here the progress of the Argentine coach in his management. The former Tottenham appears today as a coach more empathetic than angry, who often takes his players aside during training to discuss. “If PSG wants to get the most out of Messi, we need a coach with whom he has a connection and ensure his peace from a material and social point of view, recalls our psychologist. It is fundamental. “

Leo and his family in the stands of the Parc des Princes, during PSG-Montpellier.
Leo and his family in the stands of the Parc des Princes, during PSG-Montpellier. – JOHN SPENCER / SIPA

Mauricio Pochettino seems to have understood this aspect well. Because there is an element that cannot be overlooked when talking about Messi: no one can yet know how he can flourish outside his natural habitat. Asked Monday on how to go about it with his compatriot, the Parisian coach recalled the difficulty for everyone to tame a new environment:

We are talking about the best player in the world, but you have to understand that he is a man, like all of us, and that he has to adapt to a new club. His family also has to adapt to a new culture, a different society. Let people work, let him adjust to make him feel at home. He lived 20 years in Barcelona, ​​he felt at home there. Everything here is new to him, and it hasn’t been very long since he arrived. We work, he is well surrounded by his teammates, over time I have no doubt that things will go well and that he will succeed. That we will succeed, all together. “

The curiosity of the football world is immense, in any case. The reunion with Pep Guardiola on Tuesday evening further heightens expectations. Lionel Messi is just recovering from a knee problem, but he should hold his place well. It seems that legends never miss this kind of meeting.


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