Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) superstar Lionel Messi has reportedly taken new signing Hugo Ekitike under his wing this season.
Ekitike, 20, joined the Parisians from Stade de Reims on a season-long loan with a £30 million obligation to buy next summer. Playing second fiddle to Kylian Mbappe, the promising striker has featured in just 125 minutes of action, starting just one Ligue 1 game.
A pacy, mobile forward with clinical finishing, Ekitike shot to prominence after becoming the highest-scoring Under-20 player last season across Europe’s top five leagues. He netted 11 times and contributed four assists in 26 appearances for his boyhood club.
According to L’Equipe, Messi has assumed the role of a mentor for Ekitike behind the scenes.
Messi has also given the France U20 international the nickname of ‘iron rod’ for his slender frame.
Ekitike made his first start for his new club alongside the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner in the Parisians’ 2-1 win over OGC Nice at the Parc des Princes on Saturday (October 1). He completed 17 passes, created one chance, won four ground duels and completed one dribble but failed to register a shot during his 59 minutes on the pitch.
Messi, meanwhile, scored his first free-kick for the Parisians near the half-hour mark – his fifth league strike of the season. Gaetan Laborde levelled things for the visitors two minutes after the break before Kylian Mbappe came off the bench to seal a dramatic 83rd-minute winner.
Operating in a creative role in Christophe Galtier’s 3-4-2-1 setup, Messi has contributed an impressive seven goals and eight assists in 12 appearances across competitions.
PSG are atop the Ligue 1 standings with 25 points from nine games. They will next take on Benfica in the UEFA Champions League at the Estadio da Luz on Wednesday (October 5).
Lionel Messi heaps praise on PSG teammate
Speaking to TUDN (via Asianet), Lionel Messi said that he’s overjoyed to play with Neymar regularly.
“With Ney, we know each other by heart, we had a blast together at Barca. And then, life allowed us to find ourselves in Paris. I am delighted to play with him, to rub shoulders with him on a daily basis.”
Before their reunion at PSG last summer, the two South American icons spent four frutiful seasons playing together at Barcelona. Neymar has made a blistering start to the season, registering 11 goals and eight assists across competitions.