Pep Guardiola has established himself as the master tactician of European football over the years and that reputation has endured at Manchester City.

The Spaniard is offensive and experimental with his ideas, and his influence of the game has been somewhat revolutionary, but it all started with the player that he's set to face tonight in Paris.

Lionel Messi, who switched from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in a shock summer transfer, was one of the first real beneficiaries of Guardiola's work.

The two teamed up in Spain at Barcelona, and Guardiola managed the best campaign of Messi's career to date, when he scored 50 goals in La Liga in 2011/22, while registering 11 assists.

As a false nine at the Camp Nou, the Argentine thrived in the centre due to the space that was created for him by the wide players in the team, who would stretch the play by hugging the touchline.

Messi was free to form passing triangles with Xavi and Andres Iniesta in the centre of the park. As a trio, they were almost unstoppable.

Various coaches have managed Messi since, but nobody has maximised his output like Guardiola, who has shown his expertise when it comes to player management at the Etihad.

Kevin De Bruyne, for example, has profited at City from how he's been used over the years as a central midfielder with a license to attack. He's been described as a 'free eight' under Guardiola because he typically drifts from conventional areas into more advanced zones, almost as a no.10.

Kevin De Bruyne's right-sided midfield role allows him to use his crossing threat effectively
Kevin De Bruyne's right-sided midfield role allows him to use his crossing threat effectively

The Belgian's delivery has been a weapon for Guardiola to harvest, and he allows him to take up specific space to hit those crosses, with his teammates attacking the penalty box in numbers, as shown above.

Speaking about how he constructs attacks according to the strengths of his striker, Guardiola once said: “If you have strikers like Lewandowski and Muller, you have to make crosses because they are so strong in the box.

"For Sergio Aguero we have to find other solutions. The way we finish the attack depends on the qualities of the players.”

Ilkay Gundogan, Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Ederson and Jack Grealish are just a few players from the current City squad who seem to have had specific skills optimised by Guardiola and his system.

He will meet Mauricio Pochettino this evening, with the former Spurs boss now in charge of countless superstars in Paris. It is early days in the French capital for the likes of Messi but since his move, he's not yet shown his true ability to impact matches.

He first played 25 minutes as a substitute against Reims before lining up alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for the first time against Club Brugge in the Champions League, but 90 minutes later, the scores had ended 1-1.

The Belgian outfit actually managed to outshoot PSG by 16 attempts to nine and four days later, Messi was controversially substituted on the 75th minute against Lyon with the scores level. PSG found a late winner, but the global star refused to shake Pochettino's hand once leaving the pitch.

Through his first 190 minutes at his new club, arguably the best player to ever play the game is yet to register a goal or an assist, with City next on the agenda.

Guardiola will hope to restrict the player who he says is the best he's worked with. But ultimately Pochettino could seek inspiration from how Messi was used all those years ago in Barcelona.

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