Messi to make January return for PSG as Galtier reveals World Cup winner's plans

By Sports Desk December 27, 2022

Lionel Messi will not return to Paris Saint-Germain until early January, but Kylian Mbappe is set for an immediate return to Ligue 1 action against Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Head coach Christophe Galtier revealed Messi will miss the Strasbourg game, and Sunday's trip to Lens, after being given dispensation to stay in Argentina for an extended post-World Cup break.

Messi headed home after Argentina's Qatar 2022 triumph, to be feted for his leading role in the team's triumph after their dramatic win on penalties against France in the December 18 final.

Mbappe, who hit a hat-trick for France in that game but still finished as a runner-up, has returned to full training with the capital club and looks set to line up at the Parc des Princes against Strasbourg, with Brazil's Neymar and Marquinhos and Morocco's Achraf Hakimi also available after rejoining Galtier's group.

Galtier said: "There are individual cases with the players who went very far. Achraf Hakimi played in every game at the World Cup for Morocco. He was in the team of the World Cup.

"He wanted to get back as quickly as possible, as did Kylian Mbappe. He also turned in some brilliant performances and was the top goalscorer at the World Cup.

"After speaking to him and all my different teams who stayed in regular contact with the players, Kylian Mbappe wanted to join back up with us pretty quickly.

"There could be a time when Achraf Hakimi and Kylian Mbappe need to rest. Not necessarily physically, but definitely mentally.

"As for Leo Messi, who had a brilliant tournament, given they won the competition, he went back to Argentina for the celebrations. We made the decision to give him until January 1, so he will be back here with us on the second or third to get back into the swing of things after 13 or 14 days off."

Reports have claimed Messi, who scored seven goals and won the World Cup's Golden Ball prize, has agreed a contract extension with PSG, who will be hoping to get that deal completed soon after his return to France.

An ankle blow for Neymar during the World Cup is no longer troubling the former Barcelona forward, Galtier said.

He returned to France on December 22, and Galtier said: "He has been working outside as normal without any restrictions. Physically he is fine, and mentally he is looking forward to playing."

The PSG boss dismissed any suggestion of a possible problem emerging between Messi and Mbappe, after Argentina's post-final celebrations in the dressing room saw goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez mock the PSG and France striker.

Galtier suggested all the blame for that episode was with Martinez.

"What happened in the celebrations belongs to the Argentinians, and it is not down to me. What matters to me is what I saw in the final and on the sidelines I saw Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi embrace," Galtier said.

"There is a lot of respect between them. They have an exemplary attitude after the games. And of course, [Messi] needs to be congratulated for the trophies, and the Argentina coach as well.

"So I would focus on the relationship between them. It wasn't Leo Messi winding anybody else up. What I saw after the final, what I have experienced, is there is no reason to mix these things up because the goalkeeper's behaviour is down to him.

"What matters to me is the relationship between the players. Kylian Mbappe had a very good attitude, despite losing. Of course he was very disappointed, but he did that in a classy way. He congratulated Leo Messi and that is a very good thing for the club and for the team."

For the players who returned from the World Cup disheartened, Galtier says throwing themselves back into club duty has been a welcome escape.

"When they came back, our medical and coaching teams have spoken to the players to understand how they are feeling, because they are top-level footballers who enjoy playing and training to be able to play," Galtier said.

"There is no better remedy than to go back to your club where there is a very good atmosphere, a good feeling. Everyone is showing their commitment based on the training sessions I've been involved with."

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