Lilian Thuram has declared Paris Saint-Germain cannot rely on their superstar strike force to deliver trophies – and he wishes he had the chance to face them down.
France great Thuram recognises Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe bring individual brilliance to PSG, who are tearing away at the top of Ligue 1 despite a shock weekend defeat at Rennes.
In a reputational sense, the French giants possess the most fearsome front three in world football, with Messi arriving from Barcelona in August to complement an already mighty attack, with Mauro Icardi also hoping to make an impact.
That makes them strong contenders for the Champions League, in theory, and a European triumph is the target that PSG have been striving for since Qatar Sports Investments came on board in 2011, changing the outlook of the club.
Mauricio Pochettino has seen his side capture four points from their opening two group games this season, including a statement win over Manchester City.
“The PSG squad is made of many excellent players, especially forwards. If you boast Messi, Neymar and Mbappe, it is really unbelievable,” Thuram said on Thursday.
Handling that front trio, once they click together, will be a daunting prospect, but it was by taking on such opposition during his playing days that Thuram established himself as one of the world’s most formidable defenders.
Whether at right-back or in the centre, Thuram was a titan for Monaco, Parma and Juventus, before seeing out his career at Barcelona, where a young Messi was making his name.
“Truthfully, if I were a centre-back now, I would love to face them,” Thuram said, speaking at the Festival dello Sport.
Thuram, now 49, suspects he and former Juventus colleagues Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon might have drawn the best out of PSG’s ‘MNM’ trio.
“If Fabio and Gigi, who still plays, were young, they would have put on a show against them, it would be so difficult to stop them. But it doesn’t mean you win at the end,” Thuram said.
“If you have Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo – well no, with Cristiano you win a lot – but with Messi, Neymar and Mbappe, no victory is granted.
“You need the entire team and this is what football is about. Teams win.”
Mbappe has not scored in his past four Ligue 1 games, his longest drought in the French top-flight since March to May 2018 when he failed to net in six successive matches.
He hit four goals early in the campaign and has three assists, so leads their league scoring charts, but Messi and Neymar are not next on the list. Instead, second place is shared by Achraf Hakimi and Ander Herrera, both of whom have managed three goals and two assists in nine games.
With such contributions coming from defence and midfield, that may be an early indication of PSG delivering the team-wide performance this season that brings success.
Neymar, however, has just one goal from five Ligue 1 appearances in 2021-22, while Messi has yet to score or have an assist in the league in 190 minutes of action.
Including the final months of last season, Brazilian Neymar has netted just two goals from his past 41 shots attempted in open play in Ligue 1 – with only 10 of those attempts hitting the target.