'It's easy to play with Messi' says Mbappe, who concedes PSG have to be better

By Sports Desk October 19, 2021

Playing with Lionel Messi is "easy" for Kylian Mbappe, who knows Paris Saint-Germain must find a higher level than they did against RB Leipzig on Tuesday.

Messi scored twice to take his tally of Champions League goals to 123 as PSG came out on top 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at Parc des Princes.

While he is yet to find the net in Ligue 1, Messi has now scored three times in UEFA's flagship competition for his new club, taking him level with Mauro Icardi and Neymar for the most goals inside three Champions League appearances for PSG.

With the injured Neymar watching from the stands, Mbappe played a crucial part in both of Messi's goals, first teeing up the 34-year-old to restore parity after Nordi Mukiele made it 2-1 to Leipzig, before winning the penalty from which the Argentine coolly chipped home the winner.

Mbappe opened the scoring in a frantic match, finishing brilliantly in the ninth minute to take his number of direct goal contributions for PSG in the Champions League to 40.

The youngster has already scored 28 goals in the Champions League; the most by any player in the competition before their 23rd birthday, ahead of Messi (25). Mbappe did, however, pull rank over Messi late on to take a second penalty, denying his team-mate the chance of a hat-trick, only to send his effort into the stands.

"We found each other tonight, it was good," Mbappe told RMC Sport when asked about Messi.

"Now, Neymar will come back. We will have to be good together, all three of us. We will need to be efficient. But, it's easy to play with Messi."

While Mbappe and Messi got PSG out of trouble and sent Mauricio Pochettino's side back to the top of Group A, it was another performance largely lacking in control, with Leipzig having 18 attempts in total, eight more than their hosts managed.

Andre Silva, who cancelled out Mbappe's opener, had previously hit the woodwork, while former PSG midfielder Christopher Nkunku also went close on several occasions. 

Though he is revelling in his growing relationship with Messi, Mbappe insisted the trend of performances cannot continue.

"In the league, we may be a bit laborious, but we have nine wins in ten games," he said. "We have to do better, it's true. For the moment, we are not playing well, [but] we are winning. But I think we have to play better to win more calmly."

It was a sentiment echoed by Marquinhos, who was also full of praise for Mbappe's display.

"Paris won, that's the most important thing," he said. "You have to suffer, there is no gift in football. We knew that there would be no easy matches. The main thing is to win, to gain confidence and experience.

"It's great to have a player like [Mbappe]. He's a very important player in the team. He plays great matches. It's very important to have him fresh, with confidence. He helps us on the field, it is very good for us that he is there."

Related items

  • Salah delighted with Golden Foot award, credits Drogba for motivation to break top-flight record Salah delighted with Golden Foot award, credits Drogba for motivation to break top-flight record

    Mohamed Salah was thrilled to emulate "legends in football" by winning the Golden Foot award, as he credited Didier Drogba for motivating him to break Premier League records.

    Salah ranked seventh for the Ballon d'Or on Tuesday as Lionel Messi collected his record-extending seventh accolade.

    However, the Egypt forward was named the Golden Foot winner on the same day, an award given to standout performers for their athletic achievements – both as individuals and team players – and personality.

    The trophy, which was won by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2020 and Luka Modric the year before, is only given to active players aged 28 and above, while players can only claim the title once. The victor also leaves a permanent mould of their footprints on the 'Champions Promenade' on the Monaco seafront.

    After triumphing among 10 nominees, which are chosen by a panel of international journalists before an online poll decides the winner, Salah expressed his delight following more individual success.

    "It's great to win any award, but this one is special because a lot of legends in football have won it, so it's something special to win," Salah said after winning the award in Monte Carlo.

     

    Salah sits top of the English top-flight scoring charts this term with 11 goals to his name, having also become the third-fastest player to 150 Premier League goal involvements with his assist for Diogo Jota in Saturday's 4-0 win over Southampton.

    The Liverpool forward achieved the feat in just 171 games, with only Alan Shearer (148) and Thierry Henry (163) reaching the milestone in fewer appearances.

    Salah, who now has 108 goals along with 42 assists, also previously surpassed Didier Drogba (104 goals) as the Premier League's top African goalscorer in the competition's history with his hat-trick in the 5-0 rout of Manchester United in October.

    Asked about breaking yet another record and overtaking African legend Drogba, the 29-year-old responded: "Well, I'm always trying to find the motivation inside me, just to drive me to give my best. 

    "I don't know exactly, but that was one of the motivations to break his record. He of course is a legend. We know each other, he is my friend. So, it was a motivation for me to break his record, which I did."

    Liverpool cruised through their Champions League group after just four games and are third in the league, two points behind leaders Chelsea after 13 games.

    Having already achieved Premier League success with the Reds in 2019-20 and continental joy with Jurgen Klopp's side the season before, Salah refused to pick which trophy he would prefer to win this term. 

    Instead, he wants both.

    "Well, I always say that I love always to win the Champions League," he added. The Premier League… I would pick both. I think hopefully we can do both again this season."

    While the 29-year-old now dominates English and European football, he initially struggled during his time at Chelsea between 2014-16.

    A subsequent move to Fiorentina on loan and then a permanent switch to Roma, following another season on loan there, shaped Salah's career and he appreciates the influence Serie A has had on his career.

    "I think it's helped me a lot," he continued when asked about his experiences in Italy.

    "When I was in Chelsea, I had to change my football, I had to change to the culture. I felt that I needed to change my football, so I went to Italy. I played good and that helped me to be where I am at the moment."

  • Guardiola hails Grealish's 'perfect start' ahead of possible Villa reunion Guardiola hails Grealish's 'perfect start' ahead of possible Villa reunion

    Pep Guardiola praised Jack Grealish for "starting perfectly" at Manchester City but is unsure if the playmaker will be fit to feature against former club Aston Villa on Wednesday,

    Grealish has featured in 15 of City's 21 matches since joining the club from Villa in a £100m British record transfer from Aston Villa in August, starting 13 of those.

    The 26-year-old was an unused substitute for the derby win over Manchester United on November 6 and has not played since due to a knock sustained on England duty.

    He returned to training on Monday and will be monitored ahead of Wednesday's clash at Villa Park, where he spent 20 years – seven as a first-team regular – prior to joining City.

    Grealish has a lot of work to do in order to repay his hefty price tag, but Guardiola has been pleased with the attacking midfielder's impact thus far when fit and available.

    "He has started perfectly," Guardiola said of Grealish at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

    "It's easy because of our English players and the other guys here are nice people. He's played good but needs more time to settle." 

    Grealish has scored two goals and assisted three more this term, while his tally of seven big chances created is the joint-most of any City player alongside Joao Cancelo.

    However, the 3.15 chances Grealish has created per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season is down on the 3.34 managed in his final campaign with Villa.

    He is also attempting fewer dribbles (3.39 compared to 4.53) for City and is being fouled less frequently (down from 4.53 to 2.66), a sign that he is getting at opponents less.

    Guardiola puts down that down to the contrasting styles of City and next opponents Villa.

    "If you analyse games, he hasn't played badly. The way we play and our expectations are different to Villa," Guardiola said.

    "He did incredibly well at Villa. His commitment to the club to stay and get promoted was amazing. 

    "Now he has come back from the international break injured. Hopefully he comes back and step by step finds his form. 

    "We have six, seven months ahead of us. I don't think we will have to wait until next season to see the best Jack Grealish – I'm thinking this season."

    Providing an update on City's other recent absentees, Guardiola confirmed Kevin De Bruyne has returned a negative coronavirus test but has yet to train.

    Phil Foden remains doubtful having trained only once, while Ferran Torres is a long-term absentee and Aymeric Laporte is suspended.

    "All the people who have had coronavirus say it drains them and Kevin needs time to show his form," Guardiola said. 

    "Phil and Jack are still in the same situation. Maybe tomorrow they can play but not a lot of minutes – we're going to see after they train today.

    "The rest, we have just 14 or 15 players. But I trust this squad a lot. If one is out, another comes in.

    "December is the toughest month of the year for us and we are in trouble because we have so few players available."

    Wednesday's match at Villa Park will be the first managerial encounter between Guardiola and new Villa boss Steven Gerrard.

    Guardiola has lost just three of his 64 Premier League games against English managers, coming against Roy Hodgson (December 2018), Frank Lampard (June 2020) and Graham Potter (May 2021).

    Gerrard has won his first two Villa games since arriving from Rangers – no manager in the club's history has won their first three matches – and Guardiola is expecting a tough test in the Midlands.

    "He's managing in the Premier League, so he is already a good manager," Guardiola said. "I don't believe there's a manager in the Premier League, even the Championship, who isn't good. 

    "They can train good players in good clubs to punch for the titles. There are incredible managers in all aspects and maybe they win titles because they are lucky to train a good team.

    "I can imagine with a new manager everybody steps forward for training sessions and methodology to convince the manager. 

    "They have had two good results against tough teams like Brighton and Crystal Palace. It will be the toughest game possible tomorrow."

  • Ballon d'Or: Klopp bemused as his former Dortmund hitman Lewandowski misses out Ballon d'Or: Klopp bemused as his former Dortmund hitman Lewandowski misses out

    Jurgen Klopp has questioned what more Robert Lewandowski could have done to win the Ballon d'Or after the Bayern Munich striker missed out on the award.

    Lionel Messi scooped the accolade for a seventh time on Monday, but many felt this would be Lewandowski's time to take the glory.

    Klopp benefited from the brilliance of Lewandowski when both men were at Borussia Dortmund, with the Poland international scoring 103 goals before switching to Bayern.

    At club level, Lewandowski has scored 53 goals already in 2021, with six assists taking him to 59 goal involvements, the most in Europe's top five leagues.

    Messi sits fifth on that list (32 goals, 12 assists) but helped Argentina to win the Copa America, thereby winning one of the few trophies that had eluded him.

    That likely tipped the vote his way, with Messi's form since leaving Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain in August having so far been sketchy by his mercurial standards.

    Asked initially whether he was surprised there were six players who ranked higher than Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, Klopp said: "I was surprised to be honest, but it's not in my hands. If you think he should be higher up, then you'll have to convince your colleagues."

    Then Klopp turned his focus to Lewandowski, a player he once described as the best he has ever coached. Lewandowski was second to Messi for the coveted Ballon d'Or, which is voted for by journalists from across the world.

    The 33-year-old scored 41 Bundesliga goals last season, breaking a record for the most in the division that was previously held by Gerd Muller.

    "I think that you always can give it to Lionel Messi for the career he has and the footballer he is, all these kinds of things, but if you don't give it to Robert Lewandowski this time then it's quite tricky to get it at all," said the Liverpool boss.

    "And yes, Mo definitely should have been high up."

     

    Lewandowski would also have been a frontrunner in 2020, only for organisers France Football to cancel the awards due to the impact of the COVID-19 enforced break in the football year.

    He managed 57 goals involvements (45 goals, 12 assists) in 2020, which was 10 more than Cristiano Ronaldo (41 goals, 6 assists), who had the second-most in the elite leagues, and 12 ahead of Messi (26 goals, 19 assists).

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.