Paris (AFP) – This week has seen new doubts raised about Kylian Mbappe’s long-term future at Paris Saint-Germain, but the World Cup winner also underlined how vital he is to his club as they prepare for a make-or-break Champions League date with Borussia Dortmund.
On Tuesday, the main story in sports daily L’Equipe wondered why Mbappe — born in the French capital and brought up in the Paris suburbs — was not revered by PSG supporters in the way former stars had been.
One banner during a recent match at the Parc des Princes targeted Mbappe, Neymar and captain Thiago Silva, asking them if they were «afraid of winning» and urging them to «show some balls».
The 21-year-old’s perceived arrogance — encapsulated by his angry response to being substituted in a recent win over Montpellier — surely does not help.
«Everyone knows he has the talent, but you are also judged on the image you give off,» former PSG player and coach Luis Fernandez told L’Equipe.
By Wednesday, the focus had switched to reports that Mbappe and the club were on a potential collision course regarding the player’s possible participation at the Olympics, for which France have qualified for the first time since 1996.
Mbappe has in the past said playing at the Games was a «boyhood dream». However, clubs are not obliged to release players for the Olympics and PSG have reportedly written to the French Football Federation to say they would now allow him to go.
But could preventing Mbappe from going to Tokyo only help push him towards the exit? Talk of Real Madrid’s interest in the striker never goes away.
Nevertheless, probably the most important factor in Mbappe opting to stay or push for a move at the end of this season is PSG’s performance in the Champions League.
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg of their tie against Borussia Dortmund, the risk of a fourth successive exit in the last 16 is real. It is hard to see how the Qatar project in Paris would remain credible if they go out in next week’s return match.
In the meantime, Mbappe made clear his importance to Thomas Tuchel’s team with a hat-trick in Wednesday’s 5-1 French Cup semi-final win at Lyon, including a stunning run from inside his own half for his second goal.
It was a display which confirmed one thing: there is little stopping Mbappe on that form.
On Saturday PSG go to Strasbourg defending a 13-point lead at the top of Ligue 1, but for Mbappe and his club, all thoughts for now are on Dortmund.
Player to watch: Bruno Guimaraes
The Brazilian midfielder has been outstanding since coming into the Lyon team following a 20 million-euro ($22 million) move from Athletico Paranaense in January.
Guimaraes, 22, has started Lyon’s last four games, and his simple, assured style provided the foundation for Rudi Garcia’s team to win three on the bounce, including against Juventus in the Champions League.
On Wednesday he and Lyon held their own against PSG for long spells before being reduced to 10 men and losing 5-1. They now head to Lille on Sunday for a crunch game in the fight for Champions League qualification.
30 – Mbappe has scored 30 goals in all competitions this season in 32 appearances. He is on course to beat his total tally of 39 goals last season.
1 – PSG have taken just one point from a possible six away at Strasbourg in the last two seasons.
3 – Lyon have stumbled through much of the season but can climb to within three points of fourth-placed Lille if they make it three straight wins when the sides meet on Sunday.
Fixtures (kick-offs GMT)
Marseille v Amiens (2000)
Strasbourg v Paris Saint-Germain (1630), Angers v Nantes, Dijon v Toulouse, Metz v Nimes, Nice v Monaco, Reims v Brest (all 1900)
Saint-Etienne v Bordeaux (1400), Rennes v Montpellier (1600), Lille v Lyon (2000)