Mauricio Pochettino, the Argentine idol in Barcelona’s rival who will lead Messi at PSG

Mauricio Pochettino, the Argentine idol in Barcelona's rival who will lead Messi at PSG

The city of Rosario and its suburbs have been the lands where the best Argentine football has flourished since the end of the 19th century. The soil and air of those – let’s say arbitrarily – 200 square kilometers west of the Paraná River have formed the perfect ecosystem for the birth and development of many of the most prestigious soccer representatives of this country. As before and after they were and others will be, today two of them are central protagonists on the world stage. Lionel Messi and Mauricio Pochettino, Santa Fe raised in the heat of a sun that seems to have the sole objective of illuminating pastures and fields, they are the men of the moment in Paris, France and all over Europe.

The lives of the PSG coach and his new star began in similar places but then took very different paths. In childhood, both cultivated the dream of playing in the first division with the Newell’s Old Boys jersey, but only one achieved it: the native of Murphy, a town of 3,500 inhabitants located less than 100 kilometers from Rosario. The other, born a few minutes from Parque Independencia, was forced to emigrate very young but took with him the land of the Rosario pastures, as if it were part of his DNA.

The second big coincidence is that both began their European career in the same European city: Barcelona. The youngest at 13, to start a hormonal treatment that the Argentine clubs were not in a position to pay; the veteran at 22, already with a couple of titles won and the recognition of his country. With seven years of difference between one trip and another, they stopped on different paths. Espanyol was Pochettino’s adoptive home and FC Barcelona became Messi’s kingdom.

In the Catalan club that lives in the shadow of the pomp culé, Poche He played eight seasons and won the idolatry of the fans. Its qualities of tough, brave and committed defender served him to receive the affection of the fans, while his technique, tactical discipline and leadership They allowed him to occupy an important place on the team throughout his stay.

To these attributes he added an absolute identification with the Spanish colors, similar to the one he had with Newell’s in his homeland. For soccer fans, that love for one’s own is almost essential that it be accompanied by an aversion for what is foreign, a duplicity that Pochettino knew perfectly from his life in Rosario. Then, he was a standard bearer of “anti-barcelonismo”, especially during his time as technical director.

After his retirement as a professional footballer in his second cycle with the Espanyol shirt, after passing through PSG and Bordeaux in France, he began his coaching career at the perico bench. In that role he became one of the best on the planet and, as such, several times it was mentioned as a possibility for FC Barcelona. But he responded to every reckless inquiry about it: “Before directing certain clubs, I go back to my town.”

At the other end of Barcelona, ​​while Pochettino grew as a coach at Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham, Messi became an idol, hero, God of football. Talking about the historical significance of his figure for this sport does not make sense, since it is already obvious. PSG’s 30th today is the Emblem gamer of his time. Therefore, directing it will be one of the great challenges of the career of his fellow countryman.

The third point of contact is related to the official debut of the star. It was on October 16, 2004, when he entered at 37 minutes of the second half to replace Portuguese Deco. That historic day one of the rival defenders was Pochettino, who years later regretted that the following season almost became effective a transfer of the young promise to Espanyol. Finally, Barcelona decided to enjoy its future king from the earliest adolescence.

The last meeting between the two takes place today. “That there is an Argentine coaching staff, whom I know, was one of the reasons for my arrival”Messi said in his first press conference as a Paris Saint-Germain player. The DT, for his part, said: “From my time of my beloved Espanyol, because of that rivalry we had, I looked at it from a distance. What I see is that today he is happy, content, with incredible energy. I’ve seen him very mature, the player we all know “.

Beyond the obvious joy of directing the best footballer of the century, Pochettino knows well that has a responsibility and at the same time a great pressure. “We still do not have a team, we have a team with players who shine on their own and the tremendous challenge is for these names to play as a team and behave with naturalness, discipline and organization,” he explained. Tactical systems on the sidelines, his teams have always sought to be protagonists from the possession of the ball, so Messi will have no problem inserting himself into that idea. The challenge for the coaching staff will be to strengthen the extraordinary individuals they have with a structure.

The lives of Messi and Pochettino began in the same place, they moved away and approached on more than one occasion and today they meet again, as if fate had insisted on bringing them together. They will not only share the colors black and red in the heart, nor will they be rivals in a city classic. This time they come together to try to give international glory to a club that does not know it and that puts on its back the greatest illusion in its history. From the pastures of Santa Fe to the lights of Paris.

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