When Kylian Mbappe left the pitch at Parc des Princes on Tuesday night after a disappointing and stunning 1-1 draw against Benfica, he knew all cameras were on him. The world was watching, and to be fair ever since he stepped off the Paris Saint-Germain team bus with his friend and teammate Achraf Hakimi nearly four hours ago.
All Tuesday the world of football belonged to Mbappe, which is perhaps what he wanted. He got all the attention. He was the focus of every pre-game conversation, every TV show, every radio show, every newspaper column, and he was a big topic on social media. When news broke of his intention to leave PSG in the early afternoon European time, all hell broke loose!
Exactly 143 days after signing a three-year deal (two years, with an option for a third) with the club, the 23-year-old has now decided to leave in January, sources told ESPN. He feels betrayed by all the promises PSG made about his contract extension but didn’t deliver on. Above all, he feels let down by the club. He should be at the heart of the project, although he doesn’t think that reflects the current reality at the club.
At 23, he took a big step by staying in the French capital last summer and pledging his future there (albeit short-term) rather than going to Real Madrid. He now regrets his decision and believes it was a mistake, sources told ESPN. It’s mainly football, but as Mbappe’s entourage puts it, the problems go far beyond that.
Despite being the leader in Ligue 1 and in the Champions League group, despite 15 unbeaten games so far this season, despite his 12 goals in all competitions already this season, he is not happy and PSG’s results are not fair reflection of reality. The team is not playing well. Problems are everywhere, be it manager Christophe Galtier’s perceived lack of ideas and tactical knowledge, Lionel Messi’s injury or even the collective performance deficit of the whole squad – PSG cover the shortest distance of any team in the Champions League group stage so far this season – or the lack of work and intensity in training, there is cause for concern. And in Mbappe’s case, cause for disappointment.
The Frenchman also plays a position as a lone striker that he doesn’t like. He wants to be paired with a second striker to have more freedom by playing against a more conventional No.9. PSG have promised they would bring one in the summer but only 19-year-old Hugo Ekitike – he’s talented but still too young and not ready – has arrived. They tried Robert Lewandowski (who joined Barcelona instead), Gianluca Scamacca (who joined West Ham) and even Marcus Rashford but failed every time. As a result, Mbappe still plays alone up front while Neymar and Messi shine in those playmaker roles behind him.
Speaking of Neymar, living with the Brazil international is also complicated. They used to be friends but their opposing paths – Mbappe is very much on the rise given his profile while Neymar is retiring and arguably entering the final years of his career – mean they have grown apart. Neymar also doesn’t understand why PSG have given Mbappe such a big deal while Mbappe feels his teammate is getting away with too much poor discipline. Mbappe was told Neymar would be sold in the summer but he is still around and thriving in the position Mbappe thought would be his own.
It’s also difficult defensively. Another promise made to Mbappe was the arrival of a world-class centre-back to underpin the fight for a Champions League title. Milan Skriniar was the target all summer but never came and now PSG are arguably weak at the heart of defense after Presnel Kimpembe’s injury and Sergio Ramos’ red card last weekend in Reims. It was the 28th dismissal of Ramos’ career and that’s why he will miss out Le Classique against Lyon on Sunday night. The lack of depth at the back is an issue.
Overall, Galtier’s PSG are still far too dependent on brilliant moments from one of their star players. They still don’t press or counter well enough to cause problems against strong opponents; with the ball week after week after a good start there is not much improvement. Mbappe knows all this. He sees it in training and games and doesn’t think a quick fix is possible. He’s been told PSG are building a great team capable of winning the Champions League around him and he doesn’t see it so far.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (USA)
After three draws in a row with very mediocre performances, Galtier’s clock is already ticking and some of the question marks surrounding his appointment are still there. Against Benfica we saw some of his PSG team’s limitations, particularly in defensive transitions. Messi and Nuno Mendes are now out injured and without them it seemed like there was no game plan, let alone patterns, in Tuesday’s Champions League game.
It won’t be easy to solve all problems and Mbappe knows that. Mentally he’s already moved elsewhere. Those around him know he’s very stubborn and if he has an idea in his head, that’s it. For their part, PSG don’t want to sell him in January and could well force him to stay, but that could prove counterproductive, because like us seen many times this season, he is indispensable for this team.
Still, he checked himself out mentally. He’s still crucial on the pitch, as we saw with his penalty against Benfica, but in his mind a new chapter in his life will soon begin and start somewhere else. Time will tell how quickly this will develop.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/paris-saint-germain–frapsg/story/4768730/why-is-mbappe-leaving-psg-issues-with-contractneymarmore Why is Mbappe leaving PSG? Issues with contract, Neymar, more