By Juan José Lahuerta
Madrid, Oct 19 (EFE).- The most fearsome attacking trio in European football, and perhaps the most expensive, has yet to show its full potential.
At the season’s start, the line up of Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappé at Paris-Saint Germain looked likely to dominate French and European football but the three have shared the field for just a quarter of their available playing time so far this season.
PSG fans only have seen Messi, Neymar and Mbappé link up in just four games: Rennes and Olympique Lyon in Ligue 1 and Club Brugge and Manchester City in the Champions League.
The only time all three played the full 90 minutes was against City.
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So, what’s hampering the full-deployment of the vaunted front three?
Basically, it comes down to international duty and injuries. Neymar is set to miss out on PSG’s Tuesday evening Champions League tie against RB Leipzig due to a small muscle injury he picked up during the international break with Brazil, which also ruled him out of the Ligue 1 clash with Angers.
The forward missed out on PSG’s Ligue 1 game against Clermont Foot last month when coach Mauricio Pochettino let him rest after three international games against Chile, Argentina and Peru in the World Cup qualifiers. He returned to club duty against Club Brugge in the Champions League.
Just after the preseason, Neymar missed the Trophée des Champions and the opening league game against Troyes to rest after the Copa America final. Later, slightly out of shape after returning from vacation, he missed two more league games.
It means Neymar has missed out on six of PSG’s 13 games so far this season, playing 592 minutes, just over half, with PSG compared to his 450 minutes with Brazil.
It’s a similar tale for Messi. Like Neymar, he played in (and won) the Copa America final and later signed for PSG late in the window.
His signing wasn’t announced until August 10, by which time PSG had already lifted the Trophée des Champions and played the first league fixture of the season.
The Argentine finally made his debut during the fourth Ligue 1 game of the season, away to Reims, when he came on to replace Neymar for the last 25 minutes.
Like Neymar, he missed the Clermont match to play for Argentina and after returning to action in the Champions League, he picked up a knee injury that kept him on the sidelines for the Ligue 1 games against Metz and Montpellier.
Again, like the Brazilian, international duty made him unavailable for the Angers tie.
Thus far Messi has played just 370 of PSG’s 1,170 total minutes of action this season, while only Mbappé — who is out of contract at the end of the season and is heavily tipped with a move away from the French capital — has been available for the majority of the games this year.EFE