“Lionel Messi doesn’t look for passing lanes, he invents them,” Ray Hudson once said.
You could compile an entire book of great quotes from the Geordie commentator waxing lyrical about Messi, but few of his very best lines sum up the Argentinian’s playmaking quality quite like that.
As PSG took one step closer to retaining the Ligue 1 title on Friday night with a 2-1 victory over Angers, their No.30 notched his 15th assist of the 2022-23 campaign. He’s now just three away from breaking the all-time Ligue 1 assists record, set by Messi’s old pal Angel Di Maria back in 2015-16.
No player in Europe’s five major leagues has more assists and only Erling Haaland has more direct goal contributions. The 35-year-old is approaching the twilight years of his career and now there’s a perfect balance to his game. Just as deadly feeding balls into the final third as he is receiving them.
Messi now has as many assists as goals in the French top flight this weekend – fifteen apiece. He’s only the third player in the history of Ligue 1 to notch 15+ goals and assists in a season, following Eden Hazard’s heroics for Lille in 2011-12 and Kylian Mbappe last term.
Such feats are no surprise for a player that became the first and only player since Thierry Henry to notch 20+ in a European league campaign, having done so with Barcelona in 2019-20.
The latest was among the very best you’ll see all season. Brutally efficient, devastatingly simple – and yet the kind of pass you’d back a very small handful of players in world football to pull off.
Just 12 seconds after Angers lost the ball on the edge of PSG’s penalty area, the ball was in the back of their net. The hosts had sent men forward and had lost their shape, giving Messi the kind of space in midfield that ought to sound some kind of danger siren.
Immediately after intercepting, Achraf Hakimi immediately fed the ball to Messi, who needed just one touch to drive into the centre circle and set himself for one of his trademark defence-splitting passes – weighted perfectly to evade the Angers’ backline and find Mbappe.
Mbappe couldn’t conceivably have timed his run better, just about staying onside before running in and making the task of rounding the goalkeeper and slotting the ball home look effortless.
This Messi assist 🥶🐐 pic.twitter.com/Arnmo0Fu79
— Messi Buzz (@MessiBuzz) April 22, 2023
“The collective alchemy might not have been quite right for Messi and Mbappe to conquer the world together – this is PSG, after all – but watching them link up when they’re in the mood is pure footballing joy,” we surmised last week after it was a moment of brilliance from Mbappe that set up Messi.
“Enjoy it while it lasts.”
The duo certainly seem to share that attitude. There are just six games remaining of PSG’s season and – with it looking increasingly likely that Messi departs the Parc des Princes in the summer – it looks as though there’ll be last games in which they line up together.
And they certainly appear to be savouring the joy of playing alongside one another.
Messi & Mbappé. 🗣️🇦🇷🇫🇷
— All About Argentina 🛎🇦🇷 (@AlbicelesteTalk) April 21, 2023
Mbappe had scored both goals in PSG’s victory. He’s now up to 22 goals for the season and back in his rightful place at the top of the Ligue 1 goalscoring charts, on track to finish as French football’s top scorer for a fifth consecutive season.
“Kylian is a great competitor,” PSG manager Christophe Galtier told reporters after the match.
“When he scores, he does it above all for the team and so that it can win. He has this personality and this obsession to want to break records, to always be the first.
“Without exchanging with him, I know that there is this title that we want to go for, and also the one of the best scorer of Ligue 1.
“He is made like that. He is a competitor for the team and on a personal level. He was born to score goals, quite simply. And when he doesn’t score, he’s very grouchy.”
The numbers speak for themselves. In Messi, PSG possess one of the best playmakers of all-time. In Mbappe, they possess one of the world’s greatest goalscorers.
But look beyond the stats and just watch them play – their latest link-up underlines how lucky we are to witness two extraordinary talents get the best out of one another.