Mbappe no longer untouchable as PSG prepare Champions League return

AFP , Thursday 29 Feb 2024

Kylian Mbappe will face former club Monaco for the final time as a Paris Saint-Germain player on Friday, provided coach Luis Enrique selects his star player.

Kylian Mbappe
Paris Saint-Germain's French forward #07 Kylian Mbappe leaves the pitch to be substituted during the French L1 football match between Rennes and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on February 25, 2024. Photo: AFP


The France captain's relationship with the PSG boss has come under the spotlight with Mbappe discovering he is no longer assured of a place in the line-up since telling the Qatar-owned club he would leave at the end of this season.

Mbappe informed PSG in mid-February that he intended to depart when his contract expires in June, after seven years at the Parc des Princes, with Real Madrid his likely next destination.

Luis Enrique responded to that by leaving the 25-year-old on the bench for their next game at Nantes, although Mbappe came on to score a penalty in a 2-0 win.

More surprisingly, Mbappe started last week's home meeting with Rennes and wore the captain's armband in the absence of Marquinhos, but was substituted on 65 minutes.

Trailing 1-0 at the time, PSG came back to draw thanks to a penalty won and converted by his replacement, Goncalo Ramos.

PSG's all-time top scorer with 244 goals, Mbappe has rarely started on the bench in 292 appearances since signing from Monaco in 2017.

He has occasionally been substituted earlier than was the case last weekend, but always either due to injury or with PSG already winning.

"It's very simple. Sooner or later, when it happens, we are going to have to get used to playing without Kylian," Luis Enrique said when asked to explain why he had taken Mbappe off.

"When I want to play him I will do so, and if I don't want to, the same thing."

PSG have to prepare for the future, and their position of strength in Ligue 1 allows them to do so -- despite drawing against Rennes, Luis Enrique's team are 11 points clear of second-placed Brest with 11 games remaining.

Perhaps there could even be a temptation to rest Mbappe in Monaco, given that Paris go to Spain defending a 2-0 lead into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Real Sociedad next Tuesday.

They have been knocked out in the last 16 in five of the last seven seasons and reaching the quarter-finals this year is the minimum objective in Europe for the French champions.

Yet Mbappe will want to play in Monaco, who are themselves chasing Champions League qualification and are third in the table.

It was in the principality where he emerged as such a thrilling talent and starred as Monaco won the title in 2016/17.

His impending move abroad means he may not get a chance to return to the Stade Louis II again any time soon.

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