Pochettino on Madrid-linked Mbappe: It's a gift to have him at PSG

By Sports Desk August 29, 2021

Mauricio Pochettino described it as a "gift" to have Kylian Mbappe after the forward demonstrated his abilities with both goals in Paris Saint-Germain's 2-0 win over Reims.

Mbappe has been the centre of much transfer speculation having apparently told the club he wants to leave. Real Madrid are seemingly the only runner in the race to sign a player who is in the final year of his current contract at PSG.

There was no questioning his commitment to his current employers on Sunday, though, as the 22-year-old scored twice at Stade Auguste Delaune, in the process overshadowing a debut appearance off the bench for new recruit Lionel Messi.

Madrid have reportedly had two bids rejected for Mbappe, with sporting director Leonardo making clear PSG hope he stays in the French capital.

"Kylian is our player," Pochettino said in his post-match interview on Amazon Prime after a fourth straight win at the start of the new Ligue 1 season.

"You know in football there are rumours, but I think our president and our sporting director are very clear, he is here. 

"We are very happy to have him here, that is. He is one of the best players in the world. It's a gift to have him."

Mbappe has scored or assisted a goal in each of his past nine games in Ligue 1 (10 goals, three assists). 

Both goals against Reims came from crosses, with the opener headed in from Angel Di Maria's delivery. Achraf Hakimi was the provider for number two in the second half, albeit only after the home team had seen a potential equaliser ruled out by VAR for offside.

"Of course we like to play with the strongest and Kylian has shown that he's a great striker," PSG midfielder Marco Verratti told Amazon Prime after the final whistle.

"It's not today that we discover Kylian. He's a phenomenon, everyone expects a lot from him. Sometimes we wait until he misses a game to fall on him but we know him, we are very happy with him."

PSG are unbeaten in 11 Ligue 1 away games (W10 D1), their longest unbeaten run away from home in the top flight since a 17-match streak between February 2018 and January 2019.

A home clash with Clermont is up next for Pochettino's squad, albeit not until after the international break, by which time Mbappe could well have departed for Spain.

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    Karim Benzema has undoubtedly been Madrid's standout player this season, with the Frenchman's 19 goal involvements across all competitions bettered by only Mohamed Salah (20) in Europe's top five leagues, but Vinicius' form has also provided a real positive.

    In each of his previous three seasons at Madrid, Vinicius had underperformed in relation to his expected goals (xG) value, backing up the idea he was wasteful and lacked the ability to be decisive.

    This season, however, Vinicius has seven goals across all competitions from an xG value of 5.2, suggesting he is proving more reliable when presented with chances and also sniffing out greater opportunities in the first place.

    With 10 goal involvements, Vinicius has already reached his total from last season and is just two behind his personal best of 12 for an entire campaign (2018-19).

    Many have praised Ancelotti's influence for this, but the Italian insists he has not done "anything special".

    "What I like the most is that he tries," Ancelotti told reporters ahead of Wednesday's clash with Osasuna. "He tries, whenever he can, and he does it with intensity.

    "Regardless of quality, he works a lot. He has to improve without the ball, but he's humble, and he likes to work.

    "What I do is work on motivation and less on the offensive aspect of his game, where I leave a lot to creativity. What stands out is his creativity with the ball.

    "He is focused as a player. He's young, and at times he loses concentration with the fans – I tell him that he has to focus on the game and not on the surroundings.

    "It is not a father-son relationship, I already have two children! It is the relationship you want to have with all the players. I try to keep him motivated, focused, but I don't do anything special."

     

    On the other hand, one Madrid wide player who is not thriving currently is Eden Hazard.

    The Belgium forward's Madrid career has been devastated by injuries so far and, although he has mostly stayed fit this season, he has a lot of work on his hands to convince Ancelotti.

    Hazard has made four LaLiga starts this term, but none of those have come in the past month, and he was an unused substitute for the weekend's Clasico win over Barcelona.

    Ancelotti insists the former Chelsea star can get back to his best, however.

    Asked if Hazard still had "star status", the coach replied: "He does not have this status because he has had many injuries. Little by little, he will have his best version.

    "I am sure that this season we will see his best version and that he will play more than he is doing now. Hazard has it, everything: quality, motivation... He just has to wait. What happens is that sometimes the coach prefers other players.

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    Gareth Bale will increase the competition for Hazard when he returns, though the Wales winger is still a couple of weeks away from making his comeback, as Ancelotti has earmarked the visit of Rayo Vallecano on November 6.

    "Gareth Bale was discharged yesterday and I think that in a week he will be able to train with the team," Ancelotti said. "Maybe he can be involved against Rayo Vallecano."

  • Ancelotti hits out Barca fans who showed Koeman 'a lack of respect' Ancelotti hits out Barca fans who showed Koeman 'a lack of respect'

    Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has criticised a group of Barcelona supporters who mobbed Ronald Koeman's car after Sunday's Clasico.

    Ancelotti claimed his first managerial victory at Camp Nou on Sunday, as goals from David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez secured a 2-1 victory. 

    Struggling Barca boss Koeman was then subjected to unsavoury scenes as he left the ground, with the Dutchman's vehicle surrounded by fans as he attempted to depart.

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    Ancelotti, who Koeman also revealed offered his support, echoed his counterpart's sentiment.

    "It is a lack of respect for the person, not for the coach. Koeman is not a coach, he is a person who works as a coach," Ancelotti told the media ahead of Madrid's LaLiga meeting with Osasuna on Wednesday.

    "It is not a problem of football, but of society, of rudeness.

    "A friend who is also a coach told me that the best life for a coach is when there are no games. It is a beautiful life, we like to train. Criticism is normal, but disrespect is annoying on a personal level.

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    Despite the victory, some sections of Madrid's support were seemingly unhappy with how Los Blancos played at Camp Nou.

    Barca shaded the possession (51.6 per cent) and had more shots (12) than Madrid's 10, though the hosts only managed to get two on target - one of those being Sergio Aguero's last-gasp consolation - and were constantly exposed on the counter-attack.

    "I understand the criticism because everyone can have an opinion," reflected Ancelotti.

    "I said that we had not played perfectly, but that we played a smart game, which was what we had asked for."

    Ancelotti has not lost as Madrid coach against Osasuna in all competitions (W3 D1), though Wednesday's match will not be simple, with Jagoba Arrasate's side sitting in sixth, just two points back from Los Blancos.

    "Osasuna are a good team that play intense football, that defend well," Ancelotti said. "They are dangerous and their [league position] speaks clearly. It will be a difficult game."

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