Messi signing turns up the PSG pressure cooker for Pochettino

Back in the summer of 2005, Barcelona were in the midst of their first quarrel with the Spanish Football Federation [RFEF] over Messi’s registration.

The Catalans were struggling to include the boy-wonder in their squad for the new season because, as an Argentinian passport holder, Messi counted as a foreign player, despite Barca’s insistence he was an “assimilated” Spaniard.

With the RFEF unrelenting, a season away on loan was mooted, with Pochettino’s Espanyol heading a sizeable queue of suitors for the teenager.

“I remember that summer, he was so close to moving to Espanyol,” Pochettino said in 2018, ahead of facing Messi with Tottenham in the Champions League.

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“Maybe he could have been the biggest star in Espanyol. We should be the Barcelona! He would have been my teammate and maybe I would still be in Espanyol managing him.”

In the end, Messi was granted a Spanish passport, stayed at Barca and the rest is history.

Pochettino never forgets God-given talent – at Spurs, he once named the “five geniuses” he had worked with, including Diego Maradona and Ronaldinho – and, from time to time, he must have looked back at that sliding-doors moment and wondered what might have been.

This week, finally, Pochettino’s lingering regrets over missing out on working with Messi are over, after the forward agreed a two-year deal with PSG.

For the manager – an Argentine with roots in Newell’s Old Boys and Barcelona, and a romantic – coaching Messi must feel like the culmination of a dream.

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