Paris Saint-Germain manager Luis Enrique dodged a number questions about Kylian Mbappe’s future at the Ligue 1 club, insisting he was more focused on the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash at La Liga side Real Sociedad today.
France captain Mbappe, the club’s all-time leading goal scorer, has yet to play a full match since he informed PSG that he would leave them as a free agent at the end of this season. Enrique might have been expected to make the most of being able to call on Mbappe until then, but instead he has made a point of reducing his top scorer’s playing time.
Mbappe was left on the bench for PSG’s next game at Nantes, although he came on to score a penalty in a 2-0 win. A week later he started as captain at home against Rennes, but was substituted on 65 minutes. His replacement Goncalo Ramos went on to score the equaliser in a 1-1 draw. Mbappe has made almost 300 appearances for PSG since arriving from Monaco in 2017, but he had only previously been taken off earlier in a game either due to injury or with PSG already winning. Yet last Friday he was hooked at half-time in a 0-0 draw at Monaco, and once again there was no question of him being injured or even of Luis Enrique trying to save his superstar for the Champions League.
Mbappe, who is PSG’s all-time top scorer with 244 goals, appeared eager to make a point that there was nothing wrong with him in Monaco as he emerged from the dressing room after half-time. Having changed into a tracksuit, he walked around the pitch waving to fans and then took a seat in the stand beside his mother, rather than on the bench next to his teammates. PSG can afford to experiment in Ligue 1 given they lead the table by nine points from Brest with 10 games left.
Bombarded with questions on Monday about Mbappe, Enrique appeared agitated at times and kept joking with the UEFA translator that he was not really understanding the questions. “It’s very easy to manage (the flood of Mbappe questions), I just take whatever questions the journalists want and answer whatever I want, that’s my formula,” Enrique told a press conference at San Sebastian on Monday. “The match is so important that there are no comments to be made (about Mbappe).”
However, Enrique’s decision to handle Mbappe in this way ahead of such an important European date has been questioned. “I don’t understand. I get the impression that ever since he told the club he was leaving he has been punished by the coach, or maybe the punishment has been imposed by the directors,” said Alain Roche, a former PSG defender and sporting director now working as a pundit. “I think it is inappropriate to create such a controversy four days before a game as important as the second leg against La Real.”
Mbappe has scored 32 goals in 33 games for his club this season, including four in the Champions League. No other PSG player has reached double figures and Mbappe will surely start in San Sebastian as the French champions look to finish the job.
Enrique was determined to block out any distractions as PSG, who take a 2-0 lead into the second leg against Real Sociedad, target a place in the Champions League quarter-finals. “Champions League second legs are all difficult, the result we have is good, but it’s misleading if you don’t come out with the right attitude. If you come out clueless, you’ll drown in misery, that’s what I’m trying to avoid,” Enrique said, aware of the raucous atmosphere that PSG will face at a sold-out Reale Arena.
Real Sociedad manager Imanol Alguacil, whose side have been struggling for form in recent weeks having won only one of their last nine competitive matches, was confident that his side can fight back to knock out the French giants. “We want to eliminate PSG, at least I believe that. Hopefully after the game we’ll all be happy celebrating the pass, it would be a bombshell,” Alguacil told a press conference.
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