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Kylian Mbappe is not a spoiled child, says PSG director Leonardo

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Kylian Mbappe was upset at being substituted last week but Leonardo is “uncomfortable” with the criticism he has faced.

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo defended Kylian Mbappe following his strop at being substituted early by head coach Thomas Tuchel, insisting the star forward is not a “spoiled child”.

Mbappe vocally questioned Tuchel’s decision to replace him after 68 minutes with PSG already five goals ahead in last weekend’s 5-0 Ligue 1 rout of Montpellier.

Former France international Christophe Dugarry criticised the youngster’s reaction and said he has lost respect for his 21-year-old compatriot.

However, Mbappe has since played 90 minutes in back-to-back games for the Ligue 1 champions and Leonardo attempted to further play down the incident amid links to Real Madrid.

“I heard things about Mbappe. On his personality. It makes me feel uncomfortable,” he told Canal+.

 

“If a player leaves the field, and talks to the coach, okay… he is at fault. We will talk about it and settle this. But to say that he is a spoiled child? I don’t accept that.

“He’s an adorable, very committed person and a fantastic player.”

Mbappe has formed a formidable partnership with Neymar this term, scoring 38 goals between them in all competitions.

And Leonardo questioned the negativity surrounding PSG, who are on a 21-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

“In the top four players in the world, there is one 35 years old, another 32 years old and the other two are 28 and 21 years old,” Leonardo said.

“And those two are with us. Let us rejoice. I am a happy sports director. We should take advantage of that. It’s the joy of football. We have to stop talking about the problems.”

 

PSG remain on course for a domestic and European quadruple as they prepare for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Borussia Dortmund later this month.

The French giants have been eliminated at this stage in the past three seasons, but Leonardo vowed his side will take on Bundesliga outfit Dortmund with no fear.

“In recent times, I have taken a step back and I have tried to see how it is going [around the club],” he said.

“Whenever the knockout round of the Champions League looms, there is the same trial.

“We’re starting to talk too much. We say that this team is not ready, that Ligue 1 is not at the level, that the club does not know how to manage its stars.

“I want to understand why? Because we have the right to be happy from time to time. The team is first, with a 12-point lead. We have an incredible squad.

“Our best players are in shape. Why do we have to be worried every time when the last 16 arrives? Why do we have to stress? It won’t be a matter of life and death.

“We’re just playing a Champions League match. I think the team is ready. If we win, that’s good. Otherwise, too bad, PSG will continue to grow. We have to get out of this.”

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France

Neymar issues rallying cry a day on from criticising Paris Saint-Germain management

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There was a more conciliatory tone from Neymar the day after he hit out at what he considered PSG’s cautious approach to his rib injury

Neymar issued a rallying cry on social media just a day after criticising Paris Saint-Germain over the management of his rib injury.

The Brazil star missed four PSG games before returning to score in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg defeat at Borussia Dortmund.

Following the game, Neymar voiced his displeasure at being on the sidelines, insisting he was fine to play and accusing the club of being too cautious.

“It is hard after four games without playing. It was not my choice not to play, the club took this decision,” said Neymar, who had briefly restored parity before Erling Haaland’s second secured a 2-1 win for Dortmund.

“The club made this decision with the medical team. I wanted to play, I felt good.

“The club were afraid, and it is I who suffers from it.”

Neymar aired an altogether different tone on Twitter on Wednesday, though, asking for trust in PSG as they aim to turn around the Dortmund tie.

“Faith, focus and trust in us…ALLEZ PSG,” Neymar wrote.

Head coach Thomas Tuchel also had his say on Neymar following the Dortmund defeat, offering his opinion the forward lacked sharpness, saying: “Ney lacked rhythm, competition.”

PSG host Dortmund for the return fixture on March 11. Between that clash, the French champions face Ligue 1 matches with Bordeaux, Dijon and Strasbourg and a Coupe de France semi-final with Lyon.

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Messi says Neymar wants Barcelona return, hails ‘spectacular’ Lautaro Martinez

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Barcelona captain Lionel Messi talked about former team-mate Neymar and Inter’s Lautaro Martinez.

Lionel Messi said Neymar wants to return to Barcelona, while the six-time Ballon d’Or winner lauded reported target and Inter star Lautaro Martinez.

Neymar left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017, but the Brazil star continues to be linked with a Camp Nou return.

The PSG forward reportedly tried to engineer a move back to Barca at the start of the season, though a transfer did not materialise, despite the club’s best efforts.

Messi, who has made no secret of his desire to reunite with Neymar, told Mundo Deportivo: “I say it many times, at the sports level, Ney is one of the best in the world and I would love for him to return.

“He is really looking forward to coming back, he always seemed sorry [after leaving]. He did a lot to return and that would be the first step to try to arrive.”

Neymar’s decision to leave Barca almost three years ago angered some of his former team-mates but Messi said: “It is normal for people to see him that way because of the way he left, it also bothered me at the time, we tried to convince him not to.

“But in the end we all want to win and have the best. We and the people. As I said before, he is one of the best and contributed for us a lot on the pitch. But it is understandable that people think like that, since he left in a way they did not like.”

 

Barca have also been linked to Inter forward Martinez as the LaLiga champions eye a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

Martinez reportedly has a €111m release clause amid links to Barca, Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Messi knows Martinez well as the pair are international team-mates for Argentina and the Barca captain hailed his compatriot.

“He is spectacular, he has impressive conditions,” Messi said. “He was seen to be a great player, now he exploded and is showing it. He is very strong. He has a very good one against one, he has a lot of goals, in the area he fights with anyone. Lautaro has a lot of quality. He is very complete.”

Messi continued: “I wish they could all come and fight it all, and the Champions League. Lautaro has much resemblance to Luis.”

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Marseille 2-1 Lille: 5 talking points as Marseille win to cut PSG’s lead in Ligue 1

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Two goals in three minutes gave Marseille a deserved victory as they moved 11 clear of third place and cut PSG’s lead down to 10 in Ligue 1. Here we take a look at the key talking points from the encounter.

1. Lille rue missed opportunity

With the score at 1-0, it looked like a big opportunity for Lille to move up to third. Instead, it turned into a missed chance. A goal up thanks to their Nigerian striker Osimhen in the 51st minute, it looked like the stars were with them when Maignan saved a penalty in the 59th minute to keep them a goal to the good, but 3 minutes turned the game on its head as Lille were left ruing what might have been.

2. 3 minutes of madness

At the end of the day, it was 3 minutes of madness that cost Lille the game. Germain’s fantastic near-post header in the 66th minute was put into his own net by Reinildo as Marseille made it 1-1. To add to their misery, Benedetto made it two just 3 minutes later, firing in a low shot to extinguish Lille’s hopes of a win.

3. Maignan penalty save goes in vain 

Tiago’s foul on Sarr drew a penalty for Marseille in the 60th minute and plunged Lille into uncertainty, but for a heroic intervention from their keeper. Rongier’s low shot to the right was kept out by Maignan to keep his side 1-up, but he had his head in his hands 10 minutes later in disbelief as his side went from 1-0 to 2-1 within a span of just 3 minutes!

4. Lille miss chance to go 3rd 

It was a familiar theme for Lille. An inconsistent season has seen them fail to take big opportunities and it was no different against Marseille. A saved penalty was more luck than they could have hoped for but not even that could make them capitalize and hold-on for a win. Three straight wins coming into the game had given them hope and another one would have put them 3rd after Rennes slipped up once again – but it just wasn’t to be.

5. Marseille cement 2nd spot 

After slip-ups from both PSG and Rennes, Marseille managed to cut down the gap on either side. Villas-Boas’s boys moved to within 10 points of PSG while also going 11 clear of Rennes in 3rd. In theory, they have little to play for as the gap on both sides looks untouchable – but Villas-Boas will secretly be hoping for more. With a lot of games still to go, could PSG drop more points? A big ask.

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