MNM - no stopping PSG’s terrific trio
Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé have scored 40 of PSG’s 50 goals this season. This Tuesday they swept aside Maccabi Haifa.
Five months ago, days after the defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League, the Parc des Princes whistled furiously at Neymar and Lionel Messi. The pair’s poor performance in the French capital enraged PSG fans, who had had enough. Those jeers, which have long been forgotten, have turned into cheers for both, while the club have been further boosted by Kylian Mbappé's contract renewal. PSG’s 7-2 win against Maccabi Haifa on Tuesday, which included a devastating display from the “MMN”, has made the terrific trio the most dangerous in Europe.
Of the 50 goals netted by PSG in all competitions, a club record at this point in the season, 40 have been scored by Messi, Neymar or Mbappé. In fact, until this Tuesday against Maccabi, one of the three was responsible for all of the Parisians’ goals in the Champions League. Carlos Soler and an own goal by Maccabi’s Sean Goldberg brought to an end this incredible record, which goes to show the stratospheric level the three superstars have been playing at this term.
As ever, Messi’s numbers are frightening. With two goals and two assists, the Argentine star became the first player to reach double figures for both this season. The 11 goals and 12 assists he has racked up in all competitions show that this season’s Messi is the one we have been accustomed to seeing for the last 15 years. Unlike Mbappé, the Rosario native won’t make any decisions about his future until after the World Cup, but negotiations with PSG, who want to try to keep him for two more years, are advancing little by little. The Parc des Princes bowed down once again to the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, who will head to Qatar in top form.
Neymar is in a similar boat. Sidelined until March due to an ankle injury last season, the Brazilian was booed at the Parc des Princes and PSG even indicated that they were prepared to sell him in the transfer window. However, a dramatic change in attitude saw him bring his summer vacation forward a week, allowing him to return early and reach peak physical fitness in record time; his recent numbers show that he has reaped the rewards. In all competitions, Neymar has netted 13 goals and 10 assists, becoming Messi’s main wingman and a key player for Galtier. In addition to his supremely impressive attacking returns, the self-sacrifice and defensive work he has shown have earned him continuous praise from his coach. Of the three, Neymar is the one who does most work off the ball and his teammates are grateful for that.
Although much has been said about Mbappé's desire to leave PSG, denied by the player in the mixed zone after Le Classique against Marseille, his professionalism is undeniable. The striker has scored 16 goals and provided 4 assists this season, which means he is now just 13 behind Cavani’s all-time record as top scorer in the Parisians’ history (200 for the Uruguayan, 187 for Mbappé). In 100 PSG Champions League games since QSI took over the club, the French international is the player who boats the most goal contributions, having been involved in 51 goals (31 scored and 20 assisted), and he almost led the capital side to glory in 2020, when they reached the final of the competition.
Galtier’s new system, which does not have a fixed focal point in attack, unlike the previously-used 3-4-2-1, has also benefited Mbappé. When playing with three centre-backs, he was the ‘pivot’ (which generated controversy), but he now has licence to break into the final third from deeper areas starting from the left flank and he has the freedom to make runs across the attacking area of the field. PSG, at the moment, are going from strength to strength in all competitions. A win against Juventus in Turin next Wednesday would ensure they finish group winners and give them a better chance of avoiding a potential banana skin in the first knockout round of the Champions League. At the moment, the fans are full of hope and their attacking trio could not be more in harmony.
Statistics to back up performances
Neymar, Mbappé and Messi are PSG’s undisputed stars. According to Olocip, a company specialising in sports performance analysis, the Brazilian has been the club’s most impressive performer this season with an average rating of 7.95. Closely followed in Ligue 1 by Mbappé (7.41) and Messi (7.12). In the Champions League, Mbappé (5.04, 463 minutes played) leads the way from Messi (4.18, 359 minutes) and then Neymar (2.93, 472 minutes). Olocip data shows that Mbappé has been the Champions League’s standout performer in 2022-23, with Messi coming in in third place. The two sandwich Bayern Munich’s Leroy Sané (4.69). So far this term, Erling Haaland has been the most highly-rated performer across all leagues ahead of Neymar (7.95), who is just ahead of Robert Lewandowski (7.73) in third. In terms of ‘build-up play’, Messi (5.88) is considered the best in Europe ahead of Kevin De Bruyne (4.1) and Joshua Kimmich (3.69).