Kylian Mbappé’s tantrums and squabbles a new twist in PSG’s boring pantomime | Kylian Mbappe

Olike a moment ago, last August, when Christophe Galtier wondered what had happened? Did he see his Paris Saint-Germain team score 21 goals in their first four games of the season and wonder how easy it all was? Take what is probably the most brilliant attacking line in the history of the game, let them play and watch the brilliant goals pile up. Lionel Messi, after a disappointing first season in Paris, has regained energy. Neymar, playing alongside his companion, was in full swing. And Kylian Mbappe…

Well, what was Mbappé? He was still incredibly fast. He scored four goals in those first four games of the season, but the signs of discontent were already there. Of course they were, because this is PSG, where discontent is rampant, a club described by one recent former manager as “a nest of vipers”. Mbappé may have just, thanks in part to the intervention of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, snubbing Real Madrid to sign a three-year contract extension worth around £50m a year. and with a £100m signing bonus, but he wasn’t happy.

to which the only conceivable reaction may be a sigh of weariness – even if, since Succession, we’re apparently fine with dramas in which each side is deeply unsympathetic. More and more frequently in the increasingly sordid world of modern elite football, you wonder what football is all about.

Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez seems to assume it’s a tool to make him money (and look at the recent Champions League performances of his fellow Super League stalwarts Juventus and Barcelona; why wouldn’t they be entitled to more?). The only owners who seem not to have bought into the perpetual growth fallacy wholesale are those who use the game as an agent of soft power, to massage their images and secure a platform in Western Europe. The idea that maybe football is just a sport, with people striving to be as good at it as possible and lots of people enjoying watching them, seems incredibly quaint.

Perhaps football is not a commodity, its value to be determined by its usefulness in the market: perhaps that is just what it is. And that thing, whatever it is, at least in England, has never been so popular; attendance figures today, in all divisions, are even higher than during the post-war boom. Maybe it’s not broken. Maybe we don’t need to destroy this great pyramid of interconnected communities just because the old elites make such a mess of it.

Mbappé takes on Neymar who is set to take a penalty against Montpellier after the Frenchman missed a kick earlier. Photography: Aurélien Meunier/PSG/Getty Images

The deal Mbappé signed this summer came with some understanding that, through Luís Campos, one of two PSG managers who actually function as sporting directors, he would have a say in the direction of the club. Mbappé apparently wanted PSG to invest in young local talent with a view to adopting a more modern and pressing approach. And it is quite realistic to believe that this style would give PSG a better chance of winning the Champions League.

The redevelopment, however, has been slower than expected, largely because the other de facto sporting director, Antero Henrique, has struggled to advance players, which has strained relations between Campos and the board. ‘administration.

But the biggest obstacle to implementing an integrated and pressing style is PSG’s reliance on stardom. Messi is 35 and no longer physically capable of continuing every game, even if he wanted to. Neymar is 30 and has rarely shown the application required to press consistently. Mbappé, meanwhile, has attempted just 58 league pressures this season, significantly fewer than Messi or Neymar; even taking into account that wide forwards tend to press more than those in the middle, Mbappé himself is the biggest obstacle to the type of football he is supposed to foster.

Mbappé, in fairness, seems aware of this problem and has suggested that three big stars in a team is too many, that it should just be him and one other. But even the idea of ​​a star is contrary to a real hurried style. Why do stars, if by star you mean extreme talent, enjoy special privileges? Why not have 11 players of different levels of excellence who all work extremely hard for the team (as is the case with the best teams of Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp)?

PSG’s third league game of the season was a 5-2 win against Montpellier. Mbappé missed an early penalty and so when PSG won a second, Neymar insisted on taking it: Mbappé fumed. He pulled off the extraordinary feat of making Neymar look like he was mature. In the same match, Vitinha led a break and when he opted for a simple pass to Messi rather than a difficult backhand to Mbappé, the Frenchman, rather than continuing his run to support the attack, stopped. , actually sulking because he didn’t get the ball. Mbappé is 23 years old.

Rumors have been circulating for months that a coldness had slipped into the Parisian romance of Mbappé and Neymar. It now seems that Mbappé wanted to sell Neymar this summer. He doesn’t like playing as a central striker in a top three. He wants a robust central striker to occupy the defence, so he can drop into space – as he is doing alongside Olivier Giroud for France. After last week’s 0-0 draw at Reims, in which both Mbappé and Neymar were booked for petulant late fouls, Mbappé openly criticized Galtier’s tactics on Instagram.

This is the dysfunctional manger chaired by Nasser al-Khelaifi, the president of PSG and the man who, as president of the European Club Association, will shape the development of football. The French newspaper Release recently linked him to the jailing of a Qatari businessman who allegedly had “compromising information” about the 2022 World Cup bid.

Al-Khelaifi’s lawyers have categorically and absolutely denied any connection to the businessman’s imprisonment as well as any charges regarding Al-Khelaifi’s role. Then there were claims this week – vigorously denied by the club who said they had “never contacted any agency with the aim of harming individuals or institutions” – that PSG employed an external agency to attack Mbappé on social networks.

What club. What a world. What a sport it has become – and what a future it apparently faces: absurdly wealthy owners with little regard for the sport itself soothing the temper tantrums of absurdly paid stars, forever.

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