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UEFA Champions League

PSG were better off without Lionel Messi, insists Michael Owen

Michael Owen claims Paris Saint-Germain’s front line is weaker now Lionel Messi has joined the club after the Argentine failed to score on his first start for the French side.

Messi started PSG’s opening Champions League group game against Club Brugge on Wednesday night in a front three with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, but none of the club’s all-star forwards were able to find the net in a disappointing 1-1 draw.

The front three, named ‘MNM’ by the French media in recent weeks, is one of the most exciting combinations in world football but former Liverpool and England striker Owen claims it is not enough to make PSG favourites to win the Champions League.

Owen told BT Sport on Wednesday: ‘As much as we drool over them, this PSG team with those forwards, they’re all phenomenal players in their own right.

‘But three together makes it weaker for me and I don’t really understand why they’re one of the favourites for it (the Champions League). I think the English teams (Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Man United) are far, far superior.’

Rio Ferdinand, who played with Owen at Manchester United towards the end of the latter’s career, disagreed with the striker, claiming that PSG have the players behind Messi, Mbappe and Neymar to unlock the forward three players.

‘I don’t know,’ Ferdinand told Owen. ‘If you get it right behind them, if you get the right mix with (Marco) Verratti, (Idrissa) Gueye, (Gini) Wijnaldum, you’ve got legs, you’ve got people who can transfer the ball through the pitch to the great players at the top who can cause the damage.

‘Yes you need to get a bit of work from them at times, coming back, but I’ve seen Neymar do it. Mbappe is young enough to be able to do it, he has to.

Michael Owen – insists Lionel Messi is a misfit at PSG

I think that’s (Mauricio) Pochettino’s remit, demand it from these players. That sets apart the good managers from the greats. Can you get these guys who people assume don’t want to work, working.’

Messi is not the only key signing PSG have made this summer, with Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi and Sergio Ramos all bolstering Pochettino’s backline, signings which Owen believes are more important to the French giants’ hopes.

He said on air: ‘I almost feel as though the signing of the likes of Donnarumma and Sergio Ramos gives them more of a chance of winning it (the Champions League) than the signing of someone like Messi.’

‘We’ve seen it from PSG,’ Ferdinand replied. ‘There have been too many occasions when they haven’t worked hard enough. We watched them at Anfield, they were walking about. That’s the problem.

‘I just believe that Messi coming here, Mbappe will be saying “I’ve got to show Messi what I’m about”. Neymar when he played at Barcelona with Messi, was a phenomenal runner off the ball.

‘You’d like to think that can come back into their games. If it does, it’s going to be difficult for everybody else. That’s a big if.’

PSG were held in their Champions League group by Belgian side Club Brugge, even though Ander Herrera scored his third goal in two games to put Pochetinno’s side in the driving seat.

The French giants were pegged back by Hans Vanaken’s equaliser, while Messi, Mbappe, Neymar and Co were not able to break down the resilient Belgian side.

PSG have Manchester City and RB Leipzig in their group, with Pochettino’s side facing Pep Guardiola’s Premier League champions in their next European match at the end of this month.

Credit: Times Sports

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