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Lionel Messi: How PSG signing will impact Mauricio Pochettino’s starting lineup this season

Paris Saint-Germain look as though they are building a frankly terrifying dynasty. Their business this summer until the incredible events over recent days has been shrewd, within their means and sent out a statement.

In came Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma, all on free transfers. Achraf Hakimi also joined, albeit for a £60million fee from Inter Milan. Each of the new arrivals improved the spine of the team.

With just these big names, PSG’s title challenge in Ligue 1 was handed a significant boost, and suddenly their Champions League aspirations looked serious once again. But, of course, they didn’t stop there.

Lionel Messi has been officially unveiled at PSG and will now slot into their star-studded team

Messi, who left Barcelona as a free agent, is perhaps Nasser Al-Khelaifi's (left) best ever deal

Messi, who left Barcelona as a free agent, is perhaps Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s (left) best ever deal

Cue the dizzy sickness induced from their unveiling of perhaps the greatest ever football player. As their flashy drone footage weaved its away through the Parc des Princes to reveal Lionel Messi, all of their rivals were left cowering.

It is a transfer that has sent shockwaves around the world. Messi leaving Barcelona was enough to leave the everyone involved in football open-mouthed, and there was still an element of disbelief until his official unveiling.

Now, there is no going back. The contracts have been signed, the shirt has been held up and the photos have been taken. Messi, outrageously, has officially joined PSG, and this season they will have every trophy in their sights.

This leaves Mauricio Pochettino with perhaps the most enviable conundrum of them all. Who does he choose, and where do they fit in? Here, Sportsmail has taken a look.

Mauricio Pochettino has been handed a welcome selection headache in every area of the pitch

Mauricio Pochettino has been handed a welcome selection headache in every area of the pitch

GOALKEEPER – GIANLUIGI DONNARUMMA

Spare a brief thought for Keylor Navas. He was ousted at Real Madrid by Thibaut Courtois despite being a reliable performer, and has now been dethroned in Paris after Gianluigi Donnarumma signed.

Having decided to leave AC Milan on a free, PSG raced to the front of the queue to snap up the towering shot-stopper for absolutely nothing. At just 22 years of age, Donnarumma will be first-choice for many years to come.

Blessed with good distribution, a commanding nature and lightning-fast reflexes, Donnarumma is certainly another piece to add to the jigsaw as the club look to conquer everything over the coming season. 

Gianluigi Donnarumma will now be PSG's first-choice goalkeeper after arriving from AC Milan

Gianluigi Donnarumma will now be PSG’s first-choice goalkeeper after arriving from AC Milan

RIGHT BACK – ACHRAF HAKIMI

Renowned for his marauding runs and penchant for a goal, it didn’t take long for Achraf Hakimi to make himself at home in his new surrounds. After racing in from the right against Troyes, his crackling strike found the net.

With that, his career at PSG began, literally, with a bang. It is clear to see why the club splashed out the £60m figure to bring him in. He is everything a player at the Parc des Princes should be – daring, assured and a household name.

Hakimi is also versatile and can play anywhere down the right-hand flank with ease. It is at right wing back that he caught the eye for Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, but Pochettino looks likely to keep him further back in a flat back four. 

Achraf Hakimi is renowned for his attacking contributions and even scored on his PSG debut

Achraf Hakimi is renowned for his attacking contributions and even scored on his PSG debut

CENTRE BACK – MARQUINHOS

Adorned with the captain’s armband after his long-term defensive partner Thiago Silva left for Chelsea, Marquinhos has been forced to step up. He has done so superbly, marshalling his team-mates and leading from the fore.

The numbers say everything. PSG won 72.6 per cent of the games in which Marquinhos played last season, and they conceded 0.7 goals on average. Without their skipper, their win percentage dropped down to 52.9 per cent.

Sergio Ramos arrived on a freebie may cast doubt over whether or not he remains captain, but there is no doubting that stalwart Marquinhos has blossomed into one of the world’s finest defenders over recent years.

Marquinhos has stepped up after Thiago Silva left and wears the captain's armband superbly

Marquinhos has stepped up after Thiago Silva left and wears the captain’s armband superbly

CENTRE BACK – SERGIO RAMOS

This is another transfer that appeared unlikely to happen. Admittedly, football always finds ways to surprise time and time again, but Sergio Ramos was Mr Real Madrid. Despite the contract impasse, the expectation is that he would stay.

It quickly turned out, however, that the breakdown in talks was real. Soon after, at a tearful press conference of his own, Ramos left the club, riding on the back of a slew of glistening trophies. PSG then swooped in to tie down his services.

Any doubts that they would struggle to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Silva vanished when Ramos was announced. And who better to lead the club to that elusive Champions League success than the grizzled veteran himself?  

Sergio Ramos is another of the free agents PSG snapped up and he will be a first-choice option

Sergio Ramos is another of the free agents PSG snapped up and he will be a first-choice option

LEFT BACK – ABDOU DIALLO

It is strange to admit this in a team laden with star-studded names, but this is the one position in PSG’s team that simply cannot be labelled world class. Currently, the former Borussia Dortmund defender Abdou Diallo is the favourite to start.

Flexible boss Pochettino would be able to shift his formation to a three-man defence to make up for his lack of options here, but even then there is no player clearly at the top of the pecking order at wing back either. 

Diallo is not known for his talents attacking, but provides relatively safety at the back. He is, in effect, a defensive full back in a team built around the attack, and is likely to get the nod ahead of Layvin Kurzawa. 

Abdou Diallo is likely to get the nod at left back, although PSG aren't blessed with options here

Abdou Diallo is likely to get the nod at left back, although PSG aren’t blessed with options here

CENTRE MID – GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM 

Liverpool may be hit hard by the loss of Georginio Wijnaldum’s dependability and versatility this season, but this is very much PSG’s gain. He may not be the most stylish player on the planet, but he is perfect for this team.

Wijnaldum provides good balance across the midfield at the Parc des Princes, and is adept at both ends of the pitch. Across his Premier League career, he also led the way at Liverpool for recoveries and duels won. 

With Marco Verratti looking to push on into advanced positions and help the team progress around the final third, it will fall to Wijnaldum to stay disciplined. He will likely have to repeat the heavy-lifting role he made his own on Merseyside. 

Georginio Wijnaldum will help to provide balance to a PSG team built heavily on their attack

Georginio Wijnaldum will help to provide balance to a PSG team built heavily on their attack

CENTRE MID – MARCO VERRATTI

Marco Verratti endured a frustrating season last term, having been restricted to just 16 starts in Ligue 1. However, he underlined his world-class talent at Euro 2020, and will remain an integral performer for PSG this time around.

Equipped with a jaw-dropping range of passing, Verratti is more than just a vessel to shepherd the ball to the front four. He can link up sharply around the edge of the box, thump in from distance, and also thunder into a tackle.

In his likely partnership with Wijnaldum, Verratti is likely to handle the technical aspects of how PSG build up from the middle, while his team-mate will be alongside him to sweep up and also help dictate the tempo.    

Marco Verratti endured a frustrating season last term but remains key to dictating the tempo

Marco Verratti endured a frustrating season last term but remains key to dictating the tempo

RIGHT WING – ANGEL DI MARIA

This is where the selection gets difficult for Pochettino, because Messi is capable of playing in any of these final four positions. However, for this team, we have opted for his international compatriot, Angel Di Maria.

Since joining the club after his difficult spell with Manchester United, Di Maria has flourished in France, dazzling with his magic on the ball and scoring several goals that made their way straight into the highlight reels.

And that is why it would be harsh to leave him out. A slight reshuffle of the strike force sees every player fielded in a position they can shine in, and also affords Di Maria the space down the right to cause havoc. 

Angel Di Maria may line up on the right-hand side of PSG's attack, depending on their system

Angel Di Maria may line up on the right-hand side of PSG’s attack, depending on their system

ATTACKING MIDFIELDER – LIONEL MESSI

Slotting neatly into the No 10 slot is Lionel Messi. The drama surrounding his sudden, and emotional, departure from Barcelona, his boyhood club, has quickly given way to the beginning of an exciting new adventure.

In it, he will rekindle his combination with Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe has also been thrown into the mix. These three put together are easily the finest attacking unit in world football, and promises to score countless goals.

As for Messi, it won’t take him long to adapt to the action in France. After all, he has been there and done it with his all-conquering former team, expect now his mercurial talent is in Paris to stay. There is plenty to look forward to.  

Messi is capable of playing anywhere across the frontline but may flourish in the No 10 position

Messi is capable of playing anywhere across the frontline but may flourish in the No 10 position

LEFT WING – NEYMAR

Speaking in his first press conference as a PSG player, Messi openly admitted that Neymar was one of the main factors behind his decision to join the club. They wreaked havoc in their Barcelona days, and will now do so again.

‘I know him well,’ Messi said. ‘We were apart before but I think we are better together. Neymar was one of the reasons I came here.’ It is difficult to disagree. With the duo linking up sharply and at the top of their game, they are untouchable.

There is, of course, now the slight issue that Neymar is no longer the poster boy at the club. Messi has almost certainly taken that mantle. But if PSG were to win everything on offer next season, there will be no complaints. 

Neymar has been partnered with Messi once more and is expected to cause havoc next season

Neymar has been partnered with Messi once more and is expected to cause havoc next season

STRIKER – KYLIAN MBAPPE 

If there is one negative to take from PSG’s summer, it is their failure to tie down Kylian Mbappe to a new contract. Speculation currently shrouds his future, and Real Madrid hold a strong interest in luring him to LaLiga.

Without the arrival of Messi, this looked as though it was firmly on the cards, perhaps even in this window. But now, with the superstar alongside him, Mbappe would be foolish to leave. PSG are on the up, and there is a role for him as their leading No 9.

Mauro Icardi is unfortunate to miss out, especially in light of his opening day goal at Troyes, but there is solely a reflection of the squad depth now available to Pochettino, rather than a criticism of his individual qualities.  

Kylian Mbappe's future is uncertain but he would be foolish to leave now after Messi's arrival

Kylian Mbappe’s future is uncertain but he would be foolish to leave now after Messi’s arrival

Sportsmail has predicted this is how PSG might line up next season in their quest for trophies...

Sportsmail has predicted this is how PSG might line up next season in their quest for trophies…

OTHER OPTIONS: 

4-3-3: Donnarumma, Hakimi, Marquinhos, Ramos, Diallo, Wijnaldum, Verratti, Gueye, Messi, Mbappe, Neymar

Pochettino has begun the season with a rough 4-2-3-1 shape, which he typically also favoured at Tottenham, but it would be of little surprise to see him re-jig the set-up to put together Messi, Mbappe and Neymar as a three.

That would leave the back five the same, while Idrissa Gueye may come into midfield to form a trio with Wijnaldum and Verratti. Those in the centre would be tasked with ball retention, and feeding the ball toward into their attackers.

At the top, Messi might start out on the right, with Mbappe leading the way down the centre and Neymar on the left. The beauty of this is its unpredictability, with each of the players capable of switching roles with each other. 

PSG could also opt for a 4-3-3 system, which would see Messi, Mbappe and Neymar as a three

PSG could also opt for a 4-3-3 system, which would see Messi, Mbappe and Neymar as a three

3-4-3: Donnarumma, Marquinhos, Ramos, Kimpembe, Hakimi, Kurzawa, Wijnaldum, Verratti, Messi, Neymar, Mbappe  

Also a potential option for PSG this season is a 3-4-3 formation, providing plenty of width, defensive support and the freedom for the front three to work off each other. It could very well prove to be a lethal concept.

Presnel Kimpembe would be recalled as one of the three centre backs, while Hakimi, in his favoured position, would start at right wing back. Kurzawa, perhaps a better choice than Diallo here, may play on the other flank.

The usual partnership of Verratti and Wijnaldum are dynamic and imaginative enough to make this work, and in front of them, Messi drifting in from the right and Neymar from the left is one of the finest sights in the sport. 

Pochettino might choose the 3-4-3 instead for its defensive strengths and attacking freedom

Pochettino might choose the 3-4-3 instead for its defensive strengths and attacking freedom

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