French football

What's the point of jewels at PSG if the young king Kylian goes to Madrid?

"No, Leo, this isn't Barcelona. Madrid's that way from Paris." Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappé (left) has been linked with a move to Real Madrid even though the club has drafted in the six-time world player of the year Lionel Messi.
"No, Leo, this isn't Barcelona. Madrid's that way from Paris." Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappé (left) has been linked with a move to Real Madrid even though the club has drafted in the six-time world player of the year Lionel Messi. AFP - FRANCK FIFE

At least Lionel Messi and Neymar will be around with Kylian Mbappé for Leipzig on Tuesday night in the Champions League.


The Argentine and the Brazilian stars were both absent on Friday night as Paris Saint Germain needed a controversially awarded late penalty to scrape past Angers 2-1 at the Parc des Princes to kick off the 10th round of games in Ligue 1.

The presence of South America's finest should raise the decibel levels – not really that difficult at a Parc des Princes boasting a weapons-grade public address system.

Just before kick-offs, the sound system goes rave. It belts out tunes such as Queen's We Will Rock You and Village People's Go West. 

PSG – sporting only the French part of the wonder troika – seemed to be going south.

They were rocked in the 36th minute when Angelo Fulgini scored Angers' opening goal.

It wasn't a surprise as the same player had missed a decent chance three minutes earlier.

And Angers appeared to be holding their own during the second-half.

And yet, at the outset of  the encounter, Mbappé looked the most likely to score. But then that's what he appears destined to do.


His PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino told a Spanish football podcast last week that the 22-year-old is on a par with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

That dynamic duo has won the Ballon d'Or - the prize for the world's best footballer - 11 times since 2008.

No wonder that Mbappé is coveted at Real Madrid. And that's where he could well go next June without a transfer fee after his contract with PSG expires.

Real Madrid were willing to pay 160 million euros for him over the summer.

But PSG's owners preferred to retain their star to show that they were above tawdry issues such as money. Holding on has also allowed them to unfurl a fantasy forward line.


The trio - with Marco Verratti pulling the strings in midfield - is supposed to propel the team to Champions League glory.

If only it were that straightforward. Bayern Munich won the prize after pulverizing Barcelona, Lyon and PSG in a 2020 tournament reconfigured amid the initial wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

A year later Chelsea were hardly the bookmakers' favourites to lift the title. But hoist it they did after overcoming Manchester City in the final.

The Champions League is about luck. And PSG will go into the third game in Group A of this year's competition as pacesetters after beating Manchester City 2-0 on 28 September.

The tie was a vast improvement on their trip to Bruges where Neymar, Messi and Mbappé failed to ignite proceedings in a 1-1 draw.

The lacklustre display was forgiven a fortnight later with Messi sweeping in his first goal in PSG colours. A sumptuous strike it was too.

The 34-year old collected the ball and surged. He passed to Mbappé who flicked it back to him as he took the defender with him off to the right.

And millions watching knew what would happen next: a ball arcing through the vacated night air and into the net. The sound system went Death Star planet-zapping mode.

That’s why Messi was brought to the French capital. To embody  intent and speed up the acquisition of the most coveted piece of silverware in European club football.


There’s a long way to go before then – on and off the field. PSG's supremos have work to do to convince Mbappé to stick around. 

And if he does depart after four years of sterling service, they face the double whammy of having to buy in fresh striking talent of comparable stature. And that will cost big money. 

Pochettino has to quell the burgeoning band of doubters. Angers were dispatched finally thanks to Danilo's 70th minute equaliser, set up by Mbappé, and a debatable penalty in the dying minutes – dispatched confidently by the Kylian machine.

It was a victory that was neither convincing nor spectacular. Even without Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria, that millions have been lavished on other players for gruel like this?

The rapidly shredding nerves will increase the pressure on the returning megastars to illuminate and dazzle at a time when they merely need to advance through the group.

And from 1 January, Mbappé will be free to negotiate a deal with any other club as a free agent. Until then high stakes and brinkmanship will roam the hinterland at PSG who have spent so much money that they have to annihilate rather than just win. 

The prospect looms too of a Champions League triumph next May in St Petersburg and Mbappé leaving soon after. Priceless.

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