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Why could Mbappe not form a Neymar-like chemistry with Lionel Messi?



Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images

Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi are two of the most talented football players of this generation. Both have achieved incredible feats in their careers and have a massive following worldwide.

When Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2021, fans were excited to see what the pairing of Messi and Mbappe could achieve.

While the limelight was also on Neymar, the Brazilian’s injury woes meant that the excitement was majorly on the combination of Messi and Mbappe.

However, despite their individual talents, the duo has not been able to create a Neymar and Messi-like partnership at PSG.

Neymar and Messi were part of the famous trio called ‘MSN’ at Barcelona, along with Luis Suarez.

messi neymar suarez
The legendary ‘MSN’ trident – Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

The three players were a joy to watch, with their incredible speed, precision, and chemistry. They had built a formidable understanding in the final third and had made Barça the most feared attacking team at the time.

Between 2014 to 2017, MSN had plundered a whopping 364 goals and 173 assists, 244 of which were scored by either Neymar or Messi. Their success was down to their incredible chemistry on the pitch, which they had developed over time.

But that same level of chemistry has not been prevalent between Messi and Mbappe during their time together at PSG so far.

The numbers

During the first season of Messi joining PSG, the duo had combined 50 goals between them. To put this into perspective, Neymar and Messi had combined 56 goals between them during the Brazilian’s first season at Barça, as per data from Transfermarkt.

This is not much of a difference and could be attributed to the fact that both the new players had a tough time settling into the new surroundings. In Messi’s case at PSG, the forward contributed to only 11 of the 50 goals, whereas Neymar scored 15 of the 56 goals.

But after the first season, the numbers started to explode for Messi and Neymar. The two were plundered a whopping 97 goals during the 2014/15 campaign.

The combination of Mbappe and Messi pales in comparison, having only combined 49 goals so far this season. Despite the fact that the season is not yet over, the disparity is quite stark and an indicator of how the combination at PSG simply has not had the same level of dominance.

Ego, age and everything else

One reason for this is Mbappe’s ego and his belief that he is better than the Argentine. With over 200 PSG goals to his name at the age of just 24, Mbappe is an incredibly talented player, and he has every right to believe in his abilities.

However, this self-belief can sometimes come across as arrogance, which can create a rift between players.

Messi, on the other hand, is a seasoned veteran who has achieved everything there is in football. He is not one to be intimidated by a young player’s ego, but this can still create an air of tension between the two.

Perhaps more importantly, the dynamic at PSG is not ideal for world-class players to come together and form a robust combination, as the team’s focus always remains on earning titles more than forming an identity.

PSG’s style of play does not necessarily suit Mbappe and Messi’s playing styles. PSG has a reputation for being a team that focuses on individual talent rather than teamwork.

messi mbappe
Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images

This approach may have worked well for players like Neymar, who thrive in a team that allows them to express themselves. However, Mbappe and Messi are team players who thrive in a system that encourages teamwork and a collective approach.

Another reason why Mbappe and Messi have not been able to form a partnership is their age difference. Mbappe is much younger than Messi, and this age difference can make it difficult for the two to understand each other’s playing styles.

Messi has been playing at the highest level for over a decade, and he has developed a certain style of play that may not be easy for Mbappe to adapt to.

Additionally, Messi’s age means that he may not have the same level of energy and pace as Mbappe, which can make it difficult for them to work together on the pitch.


However, one of the biggest factors that have prevented Mbappe and Messi from forming a partnership is politics. Mbappe, following his contract extension, has a much bigger executive power within PSG than Neymar had at Barcelona.

Even at the age of just 24, the Frenchman has the power to dictate the club’s transfer policy and which players to come after. This was evident in the summer when the forward suggested multiple stars for PSG to target.

Les Parisiens, though, were unable to sign most of the stars, leading to rumours of a rift growing between the player and the club.

Moreover, given Messi’s stature as the world’s best, there is always a sense of competition between the two as to who is more influential in the PSG ranks.

This power struggle might have created an unhealthy atmosphere in the dressing room, potentially playing a role in preventing the two players from working together effectively.

Is it about to end?

As fabled as it seemed, everything indicates the trifecta between Mbappe, Messi, and Neymar is about to come to an end.

There have been speculations of a rift growing between Neymar and Messi, which could lead to the Brazilian being thrown into the market at the end of the season.

Messi himself has been subjected to a potential return to Barcelona, even though reports suggest that the Argentine is open to prolonging his stay at Parc des Princes, especially after an improved second season in the French capital.

Perhaps more importantly, it is Mbappe himself, whose future is under doubt. PSG’s recent elimination from the Champions League has fueled fears of Mbappe leaving the club in the summer, and it appears the club have now given the forward an ultimatum to decide his future.

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