Lionel Messi showed against Nice he has the quality to become the world's best player again, according to Paris Saint-Germain boss Christophe Galtier.

The Argentina international opened the scoring in PSG's 2-1 Ligue 1 win at Parc des Princes on Saturday with a lofted free-kick from 22 yards that he had won himself.

That was Messi's first direct free-kick goal for PSG since joining from Barcelona in August 2021 and the 60th of his career overall for club and country.

On the back of an underwhelming first campaign in the French capital, Messi has five goals and seven assists in his first nine Ligue 1 outings this season.

And after registering a goal in successive league games for the first time as a PSG player, Galtier has backed the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner to maintain his consistency.

"I have an incredible pleasure to see him every morning in training," Galtier said in his post-match press conference. "He is playing well and is happy every day when he trains.

"He is a player who has always had a habit of scoring a lot of goals in a season. This year he's regaining a taste for scoring and is becoming decisive for us.

"Whether he can be the best player in the world again, I'd say yes because he's in incredible shape and he's well prepared.

"He has a relationship with his team-mates that makes him happy. When he's happy, he performs; when he performs, he can reach the standards seen throughout his career."

 

Messi's sublime effort was cancelled out by Gaetan Laborde two minutes into the second half and PSG were then largely frustrated by Nice, the side Galtier left to join PSG in July.

But Kylian Mbappe proved to be the match-winner from the bench with his 83rd-minute strike, coming from his only shot on target, as PSG leapfrogged Marseille at the summit.

Asked about his decision to start with Mbappe on the bench following his return from France duty, Galtier said: "He picked up a knock to the hip against Denmark.

"He returned on Wednesday and only had 48 hours to rest. He still had a hip hematoma today. He had this apprehension but still remained available to the team.

"I had the same discussion with Lionel when he returned to the group [from Argentina action]. Unlike Kylian, he didn't pick up an injury during his time away."

PSG now have 25 points after nine unbeaten matches to start the campaign, matching their previous best starts from the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns.

However, it was not all good news for the Parisians as Renato Sanches lasted only 16 minutes after being brought off the bench, aggravating an injury problem.

"Renato felt a little stretch of his left leg as he slid," Galtier said. "It's his left leg, so on the side where he was previously injured.

"He was returning from injury and preferred to come off rather than stay on. Regarding the seriousness of the injury, it is still far too early to know."

Kylian Mbappe was brought off the substitutes' bench to rescue a late 2-1 win for Paris Saint-Germain against Nice in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Former Nice coach Christophe Galtier decided against starting Mbappe, but it did not appear to matter when Lionel Messi opened the scoring from a free-kick he had won himself.

That was Messi's first direct free-kick goal for PSG – and the 60th of his career – yet Gaetan Laborde equalised two minutes into the second half for Nice.

Although Mbappe's introduction on the hour did not initially make much difference, the France forward's quality told as he swept in an 83rd-minute winner at the Parc des Princes.

Kylian Mbappe is a smart enough player to create space and play with freedom alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar, according to Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier.

France international Mbappe appeared to question the tactics used at PSG when admitting last week he has "a lot more freedom" when playing for his country.

The 23-year-old was speaking on the back a 2-0 win over Austria in which he and strike partner Olivier Giroud linked up throughout, with both players on the scoresheet.

But while Galtier agrees that PSG could do with a Giroud-type player in their squad, he does not believe his side have a problem getting the most out of Mbappe in attack.

"I don't think he has less freedom," Galtier said ahead of Saturday's Ligue 1 clash with his former club Nice. "With Giroud, he has someone who opens up spaces for him.

"We don't have that player profile but he's just as smart to find other moves with Leo and Neymar giving him the ball in his preferred space.

"Kylian's analysis is correct. He's not in the same system for his club and national team. This is a discussion I've had with the president and Luis Campos about our attack.

"We were all convinced we needed a fourth player in that position with a different profile, but that player did not come [in the transfer window]. It's a shame but that's how it is.

"The technical relationship between Neymar, Leo and Kylian is different to what he has with the national team."

The relationship between PSG's star-studded front three was again in the spotlight this week when Neymar declined to comment on his relationship with Mbappe.

Speaking earlier this month, Mbappe admitted he has "hotter and colder moments" with the Brazil international, though added they have a strong mutual respect.

But when probed on the pair's relationship on Thursday, Galtier insisted he is more than happy with the chemistry in the dressing room.

"I am surprised I have to always repeat the same thing," he said. "Since I arrived here, to the current day, all I've experienced is normal things in the life of a locker room.

"There is nothing that's surprised me, nothing that has challenged me. The players here want to win together and they are also in competition [for a place in the side].

"They are all great champions with competitiveness, with egos. We have a pleasant dressing room. There is a discrepancy between what you hear and the reality."

 

The Parisians enter the contest with Nice top of Ligue 1 with seven wins and a draw from the opening eight matches of their latest title defence.

However, PSG have scored only one goal in both of their past two league outings – not since September 2020 have they failed to score more than once in three straight games.

Galtier said during the international break that his side need to show more of a "killer" instinct in front of goal, having managed 12 shots on target across the two matches.

"I want to remind the players that it would be beneficial to us to hurt teams quickly," Galtier added at Thursday's press conference.

"It will help with the management of the squad and playing time. But it must be said that opposing goalkeepers have also performed well against us."

PSG are unbeaten in their past 17 Ligue 1 games ahead of their return to action this weekend, which is the longest current run in the division.

Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland can reach the levels of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Mohamed Sissoko.

Both PSG forward Mbappe and Manchester City striker Haaland have proven to be highly talented players with phenomenal goalscoring records in recent seasons. 

Haaland scored 67 goals in his two and a half seasons in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund, and has subsequently lit up the Premier League since his transfer to City – scoring 14 goals in 10 outings in all competitions for Pep Guardiola's side. 

Meanwhile, PSG's main man Mbappe has not been shy of scoring goals for some years now and on the biggest of stages, not least in the 2018 World Cup final with France.

With Messi and Ronaldo approaching the twilight of their respective careers, questions over who is to replace them have inevitably arisen. 

Sissoko believes Mbappe and Haaland can reach those levels, telling Stats Perform: "They are scoring a lot of goals. They are different players also.

"I think Mbappe is a top player, Haaland also. I think they can reach Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, for sure."

Much was made of PSG's transfer window, with Mbappe initially linked with a move away before he decided to stay under new head coach Christophe Galtier, who was brought in as Mauricio Pochettino's replacement.

Sissoko commented: "I think [Galtier] is the right appointment. He knows French culture. He worked with a lot of Portuguese people so he knows how to manage this type of player.

"He has a sporting director [who is] very good and very respectful. So I think they are doing everything well to win, one day, the Champions League."

When pressed further of PSG's chances of winning that illustrious first Champions League, Sissoko said: "I don't know because the teams are very strong, like Bayern Munich and Manchester City. All of them are very good. We will see."

Lionel Messi wishes he could have played alongside Neymar for longer at Barcelona but is loving being reunited with the Brazilian again at Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar and Messi struck up a friendship and immense on-field relationship during their four years together at Camp Nou.

They were part of a Barca team that won two LaLiga titles, three Copa del Rey crowns and the Champions League, among other trophies, before PSG broke the world transfer record to bring Neymar to Paris for €222million.

Despite such a cash injection, Barca's financial issues eventually caught up with them and prevented the club from signing Messi to a new contract last year as their LaLiga salary limit was reduced significantly.

Messi followed Neymar to Paris, and while few would consider either to have enjoyed their best seasons last term, both have begun the 2022-23 campaign in electric fashion under Christophe Galtier.

Neymar's 19 goal involvements across all competitions is more than anyone in the top five leagues, while Messi's 14 has him ranked third, and the latter is relishing every minute.

"With Neymar, we have known each other for a long time, by heart, since Barcelona," he told TUDN.

"I would've like to have been able to enjoy him much more in Barcelona.

"But now I meet him again in Paris and we are happy to be together. I love playing with him."

Of course, Neymar is not the only superstar Messi is playing alongside at PSG.

Kylian Mbappe renewed his stay at PSG at the end of last season after flirting with Real Madrid, and Messi has no doubt the France star will be a leader of the next generation in the sport.

"Kylian, he's a different player," Messi added.

"He is a beast who is very strong, goes from space to space. He's fast, scores a lot of goals, is very complete and has been proving himself for years.

"In the coming years, he will be among the best, for sure."

France boss Didier Deschamps insisted his side are far from "a shipwreck" after losing 2-0 to Denmark in their final game before heading to Qatar 2022.

Les Bleus will head into their World Cup trophy defence in November on the back of a poor Nations League campaign that saw them limp home third in Group A1.

Three losses in competitive matches since March means France have already matched their worst-ever record in that regard for a calendar year.

Having been tipped as strong contenders to be world champions again, France's second loss to the Danes in 2022 – ahead of a Group D battle between the teams in Qatar – has set off alarm bells among supporters.

Deschamps, who guided the team to glory at Russia 2018, has pushed back against suggestions his side are in crisis, pointing to both his decision to field a younger side and comparing France's form to other major rivals struggling for results.

"I don't think it's a shipwreck," he told TF1. "We had a lot of chances. We were weak, we made errors when playing out from the back.

"It is a young French side, which in the most part doesn't have players with experience at the very highest level. It is not a question of systems.

"We mustn't worry. Having the players with international experience back will do us good. There's no worrying. It's difficult for everyone.

"Yesterday, I was watching other games. There are other big teams losing as well. We shouldn't think of ourselves as better than them. We are going to have to fight."

Deschamps added: "I'm not going to darken the situation any further. This is a reminder of what will be waiting for us in two months."

Kylian Mbappe struggled in parts against Denmark, and looked to be nursing a minor knock at one point, but Deschamps was quick to assure that he is unconcerned about the Paris Saint-Germain forward's game.

"Kylian has done a lot of good things. He's also one of the few players to have played 90 minutes twice in three days," Deschamps said.

"He cannot do everything. He was more decisive three days ago, yes, but like the whole team, I am not worried about Kylian."

Didier Deschamps has called on Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier to let Kylian Mbappe "breathe a little bit" by resting the forward ahead of France's World Cup bid.

Mbappe has started all nine of PSG's Ligue 1 and Champions League matches this season, scoring 10 times.

The 23-year-old also played 90 minutes of France's 2-0 Nations League win over Austria on Thursday when opening the scoring before Olivier Giroud killed off the contest.

PSG have 11 matches to play before France head to Qatar, but Deschamps is hoping Mbappe is not used in all of those games.

"I know [Galtier] still wants to play Kylian. But from time to time, he needs to be able to breathe a little bit," Deschamps told Telefoot. 

"He needs to play a few minutes less. It won't hurt him – quite the contrary."

Mbappe led the way for shots (seven), shots on target (three) and touches in the opposition box (10) against Austria, while no player created more chances (three).

After registering his 28th international goal in 58 caps, Mbappe admitted he felt "a lot more freedom" playing alongside fellow scorer Giroud than he does for club side PSG.

While Mbappe's World Cup spot is all but guaranteed, Giroud faces uncertainty over his position in the squad once Karim Benzema is back from injury.

Asked if he plans on naming Giroud in his travelling party for the World Cup, Deschamps said: "If I knew that... All I know is he is doing everything he can to be there."

Kylian Mbappe has "a lot more freedom" playing for France alongside a traditional striker compared to at Paris Saint-Germain, where he is flanked by Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The 23-year-old opened the scoring in Thursday's 2-0 win over Austria as France picked up their first Nations League win of the campaign at the fifth attempt.

Mbappe, who had an early strike ruled out for offside, was played in by a perfect Olivier Giroud pass and blasted in his 28th international goal in 58 appearances.

He led the way for shots (seven), shots on target (three) and touches in the opposition box (10), while no player created more chances than the PSG forward's three.

After producing an all-action display alongside Giroud, who became France's oldest goalscorer with his second-half header, Mbappe said he is enjoying playing in the system.

"I play differently for France. I am asked other things here compared to my club," he told reporters. "I have a lot more freedom here.

"The coach knows there is a number nine in the side like Olivier who can occupy defences while I walk around and go into space.

"In Paris it's different – you don't have that. I am asked to play as a pivot, which is different."

Asked if he enjoys playing in this France side more than alongside the likes of Neymar and Messi at PSG, Mbappe smiled and said: "I take pleasure everywhere I play."

France had been at serious threat of relegation to the second tier, but they are now one point better off than bottom side Austria ahead of Sunday's trip to Denmark.

Les Bleus have been hit by further injury withdrawals ahead of that match, with Jules Kounde and Mike Maignan the latest to pull out of the squad on Friday.

Deschamps still has plenty of options to call upon in each position for the contest in Copenhagen, where Mbappe is ready to start once again.

"I hope I will play on Sunday," he said. "I am always ready to play, whether for club or country. The coach says there will be rotation, so we'll see how it goes."

Kylian Mbappe claimed he was acting with the support of his France team-mates after prevailing in an image rights dispute with the French Football Federation (FFF).

Paris Saint-Germain striker Mbappe had been involved in a disagreement with the FFF since March, when he refused to show up to a photo shoot organised for the French men's team.

Mbappe desired greater control of his image rights to avoid being associated with certain brands, and pledged to continue his refusal to engage in sponsorship activities after meeting up with Les Bleus for their Nations League fixtures this month.

After a meeting of FFF officials, the governing body said it would "work on the outlines of a new agreement" concerning players' image rights on Tuesday.  

Speaking after opening the scoring in a 2-0 win over Austria on Thursday, Mbappe insisted he was not alone in the dispute.

"The squad has always been behind me, maybe you didn't know it," he said. 

"From the start, it was a team initiative, it's just that I have no issue with going into the spotlight to fight for my team-mates. 

"It doesn't matter if I get criticised, it won't change the way I play or live my life. If it can allow the squad to get what it wants, that's the main thing."

France will conclude their Nations League group campaign with a trip to Denmark on Sunday, having overtaken Austria in the Group A1 standings following the win over Austria.

Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud were on target as France picked up their first Nations League victory of the campaign with a 2-0 victory over Austria on Thursday.

Les Bleus faced serious injury difficulties heading into the international break, with Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante among the absentees, and often lacked fluidity at the Stade de France.

But Mbappe stepped up after 56 minutes to drive past numerous defenders and finish past Patrick Pentz before Giroud headed in to help Didier Deschamps' side to victory.

The winners of the last edition, France will now have their Nations League relegation fate in their hands, but cannot progress through Group A1 after leaders Croatia downed Denmark.

Mbappe thought he had curled France into a second-minute lead, only for the offside flag to deny him, before Jonathan Clauss forced Pentz to push over from range.

Jules Kounde was withdrawn as Les Bleus' injury woes continued before Benoit Badiashile's acrobatic effort was tipped onto the crossbar by Pentz, who denied Antoine Griezmann's close-range follow-up.

A smart passing move between Mbappe and Griezmann resulted in Clauss curling narrowly over after the interval, but France were soon ahead.

Mbappe received the ball from a driving Giroud run before powering forward into the area and firing a right-footed effort past the reach of Pentz.

Griezmann provided the second goal as his cross from the right wing found Giroud, who flicked a header into the top-left corner to secure the victory for France.

Everything appeared to be heading towards Barcelona and Ousmane Dembele parting on poor terms after a largely unsatisfactory association.

"Either he renews, or we look for an exit," Xavi said in January, fielding the latest in a series of questions about the winger.

With Dembele failing to agree to a new Barcelona contract at the start of 2022, director of football Mateu Alemany was even more forthright, declaring: "He must leave the club immediately."

Fast forward eight months, and the unpredictable attacker has emerged as a key cog in a revitalised Barca side, one tipped to compete with Real Madrid after making an unbeaten start in LaLiga.

Having been in the cold since Euro 2020, Dembele is also back in the France squad for their upcoming Nations League matches, with his sights set on claiming a spot in Didier Deschamps' party for the World Cup in Qatar.

Football loves a redemption arc, and that of Dembele in 2022 is up there with the very best in recent memory.

On the eve of his France return, Stats Perform looks at Dembele's journey from €105million flop to the creative hub of Xavi's side, asking whether a World Cup flourish is next for the winger.

Injury woes and the long shadow of Neymar

Barcelona's failings following Neymar's 2017 move to Paris Saint-Germain have been well-documented, with Dembele long viewed as the ultimate personification of the shambolic recruitment policy during Josep Maria Bartomeu's tenure.

The Blaugrana parted with an initial €105m for Dembele, who recorded 30 goal contributions (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances in his lone season with Borussia Dortmund.

That substantial fee saw Dembele, a talented yet raw 20-year-old, touted as a replacement for Neymar, a pressure that appeared to weigh heavily on the Frenchman; he needed over seven months to score his first goal in LaLiga, finally finding the net at Celta Vigo in April 2018.

While Ernesto Valverde led Barca to a domestic double in 2017-18, Dembele's own contribution was limited by a series of injury setbacks, which represented a sign of things to come.

 

Dembele made just 17 league appearances and 12 starts in his debut campaign, having been ruled out until January 2018 after suffering a serious hamstring injury within a month of his arrival.

In three of Dembele's first five campaigns at Barca, injuries ruled him out for 100 days or more. Between the beginning of 2017-18 and the end of 2020-21, meanwhile, he started just 36 per cent of the club's league games.

On the rare occasions Dembele did stay fit, meanwhile, his output was negligible in a side increasingly reliant on Lionel Messi's brilliance. Dembele's tally of 17 league goals and 14 assists in his first four seasons hardly represented value for Barcelona's mammoth investment, meaning the winger was considered ripe for a sale as the club's economic position worsened.

From contract rebel to key man: Spearheading the Xavi revival 

Even LaLiga's casual observers must have grown tired of discussions over the economic "levers" being pulled by Joan Laporta's regime. But before the sales of future TV rights and production companies, shifting Dembele was touted as a means by which to balance the books after the January arrival of Ferran Torres.

With a loan move for Adama Traore leaving Barcelona's forward line well-stocked, the message could not have been clearer; if Dembele would not agree to fresh terms, he was surplus to requirements.

But with Traore struggling on his return to Spain and Torres regularly deployed centrally, Xavi decided to utilise Dembele once the January transfer window closed. He was richly rewarded after reinstating him on the right of Barca's attack.

Since Xavi took charge in November 2021, Dembele's 17 assists in all competitions is bettered only by Messi (22) and Kevin De Bruyne (21) among players in Europe's top five leagues, while his 15 LaLiga assists during that time is a team-high.

Dembele also leads Barca's charts for chances created (63), chances created from open play (52) and touches in the opposing box (126) under Xavi in LaLiga, finally combining his menacing dribbling ability with genuine threat and creativity.

 

And Dembele's 68 dribbles completed in that time – also a team-high – show he has not sacrificed the individual skill that attracted Barcelona's attentions five years ago. 

Three months on from Dembele being booed by his own supporters during a Europa League clash with Napoli, Xavi said: "When he has not been involved, we have noticed."

The former midfield maestro was right. Barcelona won two-thirds of the league games Dembele started last season, and 47.8 per cent of those he didn't.

That impact meant Dembele's belated contract renewal, finalised in July, was received with enthusiasm by everyone at Camp Nou, with the winger subsequently going from strength to strength.

The tonic to Deschamps' blues?

If some thought the arrival of Raphinha might threaten Dembele's place in Xavi's side, he has made them eat their words at the start of the new campaign.

Having tallied the most assists (13) and expected assists (9.2 xA) in LaLiga last season, Dembele has recorded four league goal contributions since the August restart (two goals, two assists), forcing his way back into Deschamps' thoughts.

By the end of August, Dembele had been involved in more shots (15) as a consequence of ball carries than any other player in LaLiga, and his dynamic, unpredictable style may be just what Les Bleus require.

 

Dembele was used sparingly at Euro 2020, with Antoine Griezmann preferred alongside Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe as France won just once in four outings. However, it's easy to see why Dembele's ability to hug either touchline might appeal to Deschamps, offering him tactical flexibility when several other options appear compromised. 

Griezmann's lack of game-time at Atletico Madrid has been subject to much debate in recent weeks, while Kingsley Coman is out of France's latest squad through injury. Benzema's own injury scare, meanwhile, will no doubt have sharpened Deschamps' mind on the need for a plan B.

With France failing to win any of their first four Nations League games this time around, Dembele's Barcelona revival may have come at the perfect time.

Should Dembele carry his club form onto the international stage, potentially contributing to the first successful World Cup defence since Brazil's 1962 win, his 2022 will surely go down as one of football's most emphatic comebacks. 

Kylian Mbappe has prevailed in his image rights dispute with the French Football Federation (FFF) after the governing body confirmed it will "revise" its agreement with France players.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Mbappe had been involved in a disagreement with the FFF since March, when he refused to show up to a photoshoot organised for France's senior men's team.

Mbappe was eager to gain greater control of his image to avoid being associated with certain brands, but FFF president Noel Le Graet and the player's entourage were unable to reach a compromise when they met in June.

Le Graet told L'Equipe there was not enough time to make the requested changes before the World Cup – as such, Mbappe's team confirmed on Monday he was to once again boycott a photoshoot scheduled for Tuesday after the squad reconvened for upcoming Nations League games against Austria and Denmark.

But after a subsequent meeting involving FFF officials on Monday, it was eventually decided to agree to Mbappe's demands.

"After conclusive discussions in the presence of the executives of the French team, the president, the coach and a marketing manager, the French Football Federation undertakes to revise, as soon as possible, the agreement inherent in the rights to the image that binds it to its players in selection.

"The FFF is delighted to work on the outlines of a new agreement, which will allow it to ensure its interests while taking into consideration the legitimate concerns and convictions expressed unanimously by its players."

Arsenal were heavily linked with Manuel Locatelli more than 12 months ago and look set to revive their interest.

Locatelli won plenty of admirers with his performances for Italy at Euro 2020.

Among them was Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, but at the time Locatelli preferred to join Juventus.

TOP STORY – GUNNERS TO REVIVE LOCATELLI INTEREST

Premier League leaders Arsenal will renew their pursuit of Italy international Manuel Locatelli in the near future, claims Calciomercato.

The Gunners have previously been linked with the 24-year-old Juventus midfielder, who is on loan from Sassuolo.

Locatelli was signed by the Bianconeri in August 2021 on a two-year loan, with Juventus holding the obligation to purchase him for €25 million payable over three years plus €12.5m in potential add-ons.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid will not stand in the way of Mariano Diaz should he decide to exit the club across town to join Atletico Madrid, according to El Nacional. It has previously been reported Atletico are targeting the 29-year-old striker.

Madrid will not pursue a deal for Paris Saint-Germain attacker Kylian Mbappe if he has no interest in signing, according to Marca. Mbappe was close to joining the Spanish giants in the off-season as a free agent after a long chase, before signing a lucrative extension with PSG.

– The Sun claims that Leicester City may be forced to stick with manager Brendan Rodgers as it will be too expensive for the club to sack him amid their awful start to the new Premier League season. According to the report, the Foxes would need to pay Rodgers more than £10 million to sack him, with three years left on his deal.

Chelsea's overhaul continues with the club on the cusp of appointing Christoph Freund as their new sporting director, claims The Guardian. Freund is with Austrian champions Salzburg. The Blues recently replaced Thomas Tuchel with Graham Potter as head coach.

Christophe Galtier was relieved to see his Paris Saint-Germain side bounce back from an "average" first half to beat Maccabi Haifa 3-1 in Champions League Group H on Wednesday.

The Ligue 1 champions fell behind to Tjaronn Chery's strike midway through the first half, but they went in at the break level thanks to Lionel Messi's close-range finish.

The Argentinian's goal saw him move clear of long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the player to have scored against the highest number of opponents in the Champions League (39).

It also meant he became the first player in history to score in 18 different Champions League seasons.

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar added to Messi's goal in the second half as PSG won their opening two matches in a Champions League campaign for the first time since 2019-20 under Thomas Tuchel, when they went on to reach the final.

While Galtier was unimpressed with his side's below-par display in the first half, he praised his players for the way they reacted to his instructions after the break.

"We had two or three big situations in the first period and they had some too; they pushed hard in what was a big atmosphere," he told RMC Sport 1.

"We were not well organised and we were quickly cut in two. It made for a very difficult first period. We had to rectify things and after the break we were much more compact.

"The opponents are always of very good quality in the Champions League. We had to react after the first period which was average, especially on a tactical level.

"We were cut open, our team block was low and Maccabi pushed high. From the moment the front three went down to get back in the block, we were better.

"It was not a question of lack of effort, but a question of poor analysis of the pressure between our midfielders and our attacking trio."

Mbappe's strike means he has now scored 30 goals in 46 Champions League games for PSG, taking him level with Edinson Cavani as the club's highest scorer in the competition.

Like his coach, the 23-year-old was not impressed with PSG's first half and says they need to improve quickly. 

"We fell asleep a bit and we conceded this first goal," he told Canal+. "Then we reacted well. We started to install our game and make differences. We were able to score the second and seal the win at the end with the third. 

"We have to improve. We will have to work. We work during the week but now we have to get results quickly because the important things will happen quickly, like the World Cup."

Christophe Galtier was relieved to see his Paris Saint-Germain side bounce back from an "average" first half to beat Maccabi Haifa 3-1 in Champions League Group H on Wednesday.

The Ligue 1 champions fell behind to Tiaronn Chery's strike midway through the first half, but they went in at the break level thanks to Lionel Messi's close-range finish.

The Argentinian's goal saw him move clear of long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the player to have scored against the highest number of opponents in the Champions League (39).

It also meant he became the first player in history to score in 18 different Champions League seasons.

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar added to Messi's goal in the second half as PSG won their opening two matches in a Champions League campaign for the first time since 2019-20 under Thomas Tuchel, when they went on to reach the final.

While Galtier was unimpressed with his side's below-par display in the first half, he praised his players for the way they reacted to his instructions after the break.

"We had two or three big situations in the first period and they had some too; they pushed hard in what was a big atmosphere," he told RMC Sport 1.

"We were not well organised and we were quickly cut in two. It made for a very difficult first period. We had to rectify things and after the break we were much more compact.

"The opponents are always of very good quality in the Champions League. We had to react after the first period which was average, especially on a tactical level.

"We were cut open, our team block was low and Maccabi pushed high. From the moment the front three went down to get back in the block, we were better.

"It was not a question of lack of effort, but a question of poor analysis of the pressure between our midfielders and our attacking trio."

Mbappe's strike means he has now scored 30 goals in 46 Champions League games for PSG, taking him level with Edinson Cavani as the club's highest scorer in the competition.

Like his coach, the 23-year-old was not impressed with PSG's first half and says they need to improve quickly. 

"We fell asleep a bit and we conceded this first goal," he told Canal+. "Then we reacted well. We started to install our game and make differences. We were able to score the second and seal the win at the end with the third. 

"We have to improve. We will have to work. We work during the week but now we have to get results quickly because the important things will happen quickly, like the World Cup."

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