The rift between two of the club’s most high profile stars is threatening to tear Christophe Galtier’s dressing room apart
Paris Saint-Germain convinced Kylian Mbappe to snub a transfer to Real Madrid in favor of signing a new contract, but he has not looked happy about still being at Parc des Princes in the early weeks of the 2022-23 campaign.
Mbappe reportedly became the highest-paid player in world football when he finalized a three-year deal in May, with it widely suggested that the agreement also granted him executive powers behind the scenes.
The 23-year-old has been unable to hit the ground running, though, as he was ruled out of PSG’s Trophee des Champions final triumph over Nantes due to suspension before a foot injury saw him miss their opening 5-0 Ligue 1 win against Clermont Foot.
Neymar took center stage in his absence, scoring three goals across those two fixtures to quiet speculation over his future following reports that PSG had put him on the transfer list.
The Brazilian overshadowed Mbappe again on the Frenchman’s return to Christophe Galtier’s starting XI against Montpellier last weekend, scoring another two goals, including one from the spot after Mbappe had missed an earlier penalty.
The World Cup winner, who did eventually get his name on the scoresheet, argued in vain to try and take the second penalty from Neymar, but the Brazilian wasn’t in any mood to bow to his orders, and their feud has spilled over into the PSG dressing room.
Has Mbappe’s ego become overinflated, or is Neymar trying to sabotage him? Two members of the GOAL team have had their say below. What do you think?
“Mbappe needs to be told that no player is bigger than the club”
James Westwood, GOAL assistant editor
Neymar has been painted as the bad guy throughout his PSG career, having not quite been able to live up to his world record €222 million transfer fee since making the switch from Barcelona in 2017.
An enigmatic figure capable of getting fans off their seats with breathtaking displays of skill one minute, and alienating even his most avid supporters with shameless playacting in the next, Neymar has often brought intense criticism on himself.
The Brazil international is also well known for his flamboyant lifestyle away from the pitch, which has led to the accusation that he doesn’t work hard enough to maximize his talents
But he looks like a different prospect so far this term, a man who has knuckled down and become determined to prove his critics wrong.
Persistent transfer rumors have strengthened his resolve instead of breaking his spirit, and he is now leading PSG’s new era under Galtier ahead of Mbappe and Lionel Messi.
In stark contrast, Mbappe appears to have bought into his own hype after turning down Madrid and becoming the French champions’ poster boy.
His ill-advised attempt to steal the ball from Neymar to take another penalty against Montpellier wasn’t even his lowest point in the contest, as he was seen turning his back to the play mid-way through one PSG attack after being overlooked for a pass by Vitinha.
The Portuguese chose an easier option in Messi to his right over the more risky ball to Mbappe on the left, but the Frenchman instantly saw red and threw a fit instead of busting a lung to try and get into the box and potentially finish off the move .
Neymar has certainly been guilty of a lack of effort in the past, but Mbappe went a step further with his outburst, which amounted to a shameless display of unprofessionalism that should give PSG officials cause for concern.
Poster boy or not, Mbappe needs to be told that no player is bigger than the club – and he’d do well to take a leaf out of Neymar’s book when it comes to changing his ways.
“People were waiting for Mbappe to put a foot wrong”
Dan Bernstein, GOAL assistant editor
The optics aren’t great for Mbappe, but this is also a case of people jumping at the opportunity to tear down a rising star. Rival fans were waiting for him to put a wrong foot. They got their wish, and now they want him to suffer.
The moment the 23-year-old signed his surprise contract extension at PSG, he faced fierce backlash. Real Madrid drove an all-out offensive to paint the forward as greedy and not driven by romanticized old-school football principles. President Florentino Perez took several shots at him through the press, unable to accept that for once a player had decided not to move to the Santiago Bernabeu. The jabs had an immediate effect; all over social media he was called names such as “MPaPay” and “MBitcoin” in reference to his alleged lust for money.
His summer started, then, with the opposite emotions he might have anticipated. He was pilloried for having the nerve to re-sign with a team he’s played for since he was a teenager, in the capital of his home country.
Mbappe was also accused of demanding the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino – a charge that damaged his reputation further and that Pochettino himself has denied.
And then he’s expected to enter camp in high spirits?
Mbappe undeniably demonstrated immaturity with his petulance against Montpellier. He was wrong to let out in that manner. Even in an effort to defend the forward, team-mate Marco Verratti conceded that he was sulking.
But he’s not the first to fight for a penalty, right? And he’s certainly not alone at PSG in throwing a mini-tantrum. Even Messi, regarded as one of football’s most respected figures, did so last year because he was mad at a substitution.
It’s also important to remember that recent reports about the PSG dressing room have clearly been driven by Neymar’s camp. There’s an agenda to everything, and it’s obvious that we’ve only gotten one side’s perspective so far. Neymar allowing (if not outright encouraging) his allies to publicly throw Mbappe under the bus isn’t exactly the work of a perfect team-mate.
The loser in this will ultimately be the club, as many thought the raft of new and sensible signings and a manager with a clearly defined plan would push PSG closer to the Champions League holy grail. But if two of the three star forwards can’t bury the hatchet, their seems little chance of that happening.