Lionel Messi and Neymar have been training together for Paris Saint-Germain, but Mauricio Pochettino refused to comment whether the pair would feature against Brest.

PSG travel to Brest on Friday fresh from back-to-back Ligue 1 wins against Troyes and Strasbourg, the first time in three years they have begun a new domestic season in such fashion.

Despite a positive start to their campaign, interest continues to centre around Messi, who arrived in Paris after a shock exit from Barcelona amid the club's financial difficulties in August.

However, it remains unclear whether the highly anticipated pairing of Messi and Neymar will be reunited to form a formidable trio with Kylian Mbappe at Stade Francis-Le Ble.

"We haven’t decided the squad yet but we will do so shortly," Pochettino responded in Thursday's news conference when asked about Messi.

"We will analyse whether he can be in the squad. In terms of what Lionel Messi brings, everybody knows that.

"His presence here in terms of what he represents is something we have talked about a lot in recent days.

"I am pleased with how he has settled in and how he has connected with squad. When you have talent at this sort of club, the understanding is not just in the dressing room but also on the pitch."

 

As part of a fearsome frontline with Luis Suarez at Barcelona between 2014 and 2017, Messi and Neymar between them created 2.1 chances for one another per 90 minutes, resulting in 22 assists for the duo.

But, like Suarez when he moved to Barcelona, it is Messi who will have to quickly link-up with an already established pairing, Mbappe and Neymar.

Neymar's injury troubles have meant that he and Mbappe have only played 3,552 minutes together – less than half as many as Messi and Suarez – though they have combined for 102 chances (2.6 per 90) and 21 assists (one every 169 minutes).

However, as with questioning over Messi's inclusion, Pochettino kept his cards close to his chest as to whether Neymar would feature.

"As I said, we are assessing that and of course, we take physical and footballing attributes into account," the head coach reiterated. "Within the squad, we have to find the right balance."

Mbappe, who is the only player to have recorded more than one assist following a ball carry in Ligue 1 this term (two), is the third part of Pochettino's forward puzzle, but his future remains in question.

With just a year left on his current deal, links to Real Madrid were expected to be quashed by Messi's arrival as the Frenchman realises his opportunity to challenge for Champions League glory at the Parc des Princes.

"I think he [Kylian Mbappe] is very motivated and working hard ahead of this season," the former Tottenham boss added. "We are thinking the same things we have been thinking in recent weeks. He is our player and I want him to be here this season."

"The most important thing is Kylian Mbappe is calm and knows what he is doing. He knows what he wants to do. We know that he is our player. We want him to be here.

"My conversations with Kylian Mbappe are all about football. He has another year on his contract and even if he doesn’t renew, he is still a PSG player and we are pleased with him, and from what I understand, he is pleased with us."

Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out of contract at the end of 2021-22 and no closer to re-signing in the French capital.

Real Madrid are reportedly holding onto hope of securing his services before the end of the transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STILL DREAMING OF MBAPPE

Real Madrid have not given up on signing Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Mbappe is into the final year of his PSG contract and while he has been tipped to make the move to Madrid, he has reportedly told friends he will remain in Paris.

However, LaLiga powerhouses Madrid – also linked with Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland – believe it is a strategy to secure a friendly exit from PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are interested in Monaco defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, say reporters Sacha Tavolieri and Jonathan Shrager. United have also been linked with Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, who is reportedly wanted by PSG and Madrid.

- RB Leipzig star Marcel Sabitzer is interested in a move to Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich, claims Bild.

- Goal and widespread reports say Arsenal are close to signing Martin Odegaard from Madrid. Odegaard spent six months on loan at Arsenal last season.

Duvan Zapata is Inter's priority signing, according to Calciomercato. Despite signing Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries after Romelu Lukaku's, the Serie A champions are eyeing the Atlanta forward. Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram, Joaquin Correa of Lazio, Torino forward Andrea Belotti and Wolfsburg's Wout Weghorst are other options.

- Italian journalist Sara Meini reports Manchester City are stepping up their pursuit of Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic amid their struggle to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham. Atletico Madrid and Spurs have also been linked with Vlahovic.

Juventus are nearing a deal to re-sign Miralem Pjanic from Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo. Juve, according to Di Marzio, are also listening to offers for Weston McKennie.

Real Madrid star Toni Kroos appeared to tease the possibility of Kylian Mbappe joining the LaLiga giants following Lionel Messi's move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe continues to be linked with a blockbuster transfer to Madrid as he enters the final year of his PSG contract and the France international is no closer to signing a new deal.

PSG have no intention of selling Mbappe, who was jeered by sections of the crowd before and during Saturday's 4-2 Ligue 1 win over Strasbourg.

With Barcelona great and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi now in Paris, Kroos mischievously suggested his presence in the French capital could lead to Mbappe's departure.

"We will see how everything goes [regarding the signing of Messi to PSG]," Kroos said on Einfach mal Luppen – a podcast he runs with his brother.

"The move may be good for us because our biggest rivals have lost their best player.

"And something even better may come out of it as a consequence. Maybe a player from Paris [Saint-Germain] will join us... I don't know."

 

Mbappe was on target as Mauricio Pochettino's PSG overcame Strasbourg, with the World Cup winner having now either scored or assisted in seven consecutive matches in Ligue 1 (eight goals, four assists).

It was Mbappe's 150th Ligue 1 appearance – in the past 40 seasons, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (113) scored more goals in his first 150 games than the Frenchman (108).

Manchester City's interest in signing Tottenham's Harry Kane is widely known but a deal appears no closer to materialising. 

The 28-year-old forward was absent for the two sides' Premier League game on Sunday, when Spurs took the points.

City have reportedly bid up to £125 million to sign the England international, who reportedly requested a move late last season.

TOP STORY - KANE FRUSTRATED AS SPURS REJECT CITY BID

Kane has grown frustrated with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy and thrown down the gauntlet with a proposed move to Manchester City, reports The Telegraph.

According to the report, the England forward feels that Levy has not honoured their meeting at the end of the 2019-20 season when he requested to leave Spurs if they underachieved.

Kane is also frustrated that Levy's tactics have seen fans turned against him and that the chairman is also refusing to sell or even accept calls from City.

The report claims that City have submitted a fresh £125m bid for Kane, which Spurs have turned down.

 

ROUND-UP

- El Larguero claims that Paris Saint-Germain director Leonardo has informed the players that Kylian Mbappe will stay to see out the remainder of his contract, due to expire in mid-2022, scuppering Real Madrid's hopes of signing him this month or in January.

- Samuel Umtiti, Martin Braithwaite and Miralem Pjanic are all on the chopping block at Barcelona, according to Diario AS, which claims the Catalans must sell three players this month to reduce their salary bill despite Lionel Messi's exit.

- Martin Odegaard is set to re-join Arsenal on a permanent deal from Real Madrid, says Fabrizio Romano. Talks are at their final stages with a deal until 2026.

- Tottenham are keen on Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma, reports Sky Sports. The Blues would demand a £25 million fee for the Frenchman.

- Internazionale are in talks to sign forward Marcus Thuram from Moenchengladbach, claims Sky Sport Italia.

- The Sun reports that Wolves are talking to Olympiacos about signing Portuguese defender Ruben Semedo on a one-year loan.

Cristiano Ronaldo is suddenly the name dominating the transfer rumour mill.

The Portuguese superstar is reportedly drawing interest from multiple quarters.

Is a departure from Juventus on the cards?

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO SPECULATION ABOUNDS

Ronaldo is the subject of widespread speculation around Europe. 

Paris Saint-Germain would like Ronaldo to replace Kylian Mbappe if the France international departs for Real Madrid this summer window or next, says Calciomercato, opening up the tantalising prospect of a partnership with Lionel Messi.

Meanwhile, El Chiringuito suggests Carlo Ancelotti could make a move to bring Ronaldo back to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Elsewhere, Corriere dello Sport claims Ronaldo has offered his services to Manchester City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona could swap Philippe Coutinho to Arsenal in their bid to land Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Sky Sports. 

- Despite signing an extension with PSG through 2023 just a few months ago, Julian Draxler could be on the way out. Kicker says a Bundesliga team, likely Bayer Leverkusen, have made a €20m offer. 

- Hector Bellerin wants out of Arsenal, The Athletic reports, saying Inter are monitoring the situation. The Star says the Gunners could move him back to Barca in a swap deal for Emerson Royal.

- Juventus will make a final bid of €35million to Sassuolo for Manuel Locatelli, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Tottenham want to add Patrick Bamford to their attack but Leeds are keen to sign him to a long-term extension, says the Mirror. 

- West Ham are still trying to land Kurt Zouma from Chelsea, says the Guardian.

- Lyon are looking to pry Emerson Palmieri away from Chelsea on a loan deal with an option to buy, L'Equipe reports. 

- Clement Lenglet could be on the move from Barcelona to Roma, says Gianluigi Longari. 

Lionel Messi has left a glaring hole at Barcelona and it will prove to be an extremely difficult void to fill as former team-mate Victor Sanchez discussed the shock and tearful Camp Nou exit.

Messi had been tipped to re-sign at Barcelona but the LaLiga club's dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under the league's salary restrictions, paving the way for a blockbuster switch to Ligue 1 powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain.

Instead of extending his time at Barca, dating back to 2000 during his youth, Messi now forms a frightening attack alongside old friend Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in Paris.

Sanchez played alongside Messi in Barca, where he emerged from the club's youth system in 2005 and made his first-team debut in 2008 before joining and captaining rivals Espanyol, and he spoke to Stats Perform about the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's stunning departure.

"I was shocked, but everyone too because after last year when he wanted to leave, and he finally didn't, I looked like he would end his career at Barcelona," said Sanchez, who now plays for Western United in Australia.

"So, leaving this year and joining PSG, it is tough to understand on his side, but also on the Barcelona side. I have spoken with former team-mates of his and they think same as me: they thought it was done and he would continue playing for Barca, and everything changed at the very last moment.

"We won't know why it did not happen, but it is a big shame for Barcelona and for Spanish football. On the other hand, it is a big joy for French football and PSG as I think they are building a spectacular team."

Messi played 778 games for Barcelona in all competitions, scoring 672 goals and providing 265 assists across those games. That amounts to 937 goal involvements during his Barca career, which began as a 17-year-old.

Messi's goals for Barca were scored against 82 different teams. Sevilla were his favourite opponent, finding the net against them 38 times in 43 appearances.

The 34-year-old's most prolific season as a Barcelona player was in 2011-12 when scoring a remarkable 73 goals in all competitions, as well as providing a further 28 assists, setting a personal record in both categories.

Messi netted 79 goals for his club across the calendar year in 2012, which is a record amount by a single player. His next most prolific year was 2010 when registering 58 times.

 

He is the only player to have scored 10 or more goals in LaLiga in 15 consecutive seasons.

Messi is the all-time LaLiga top scorer with 474 goals and is the second-highest scorer ever in Europe's top five leagues behind Cristiano Ronaldo (476), while he scored in 21 consecutive LaLiga games between November 2012 and May 2013 - a record for a player in the competition's history.

"It is very tough to replace Messi. You get a player like this every 20-30-40 years," Sanchez said before Barca's season-opening 4-2 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday. "It is so hard. However, Barca's academy works in the same way with every team, so they can get three-four-five players and build a strong team who can win titles and bid for all, something difficult right now in Barcelona.

"It is the same what happened with [Andres] Iniesta, Xavi… probably will happen with [Sergio] Busquets too. It is not easy to replace them with other players because they have been the best in their position.

"Barcelona will get other good players, but it won't be easy to get someone like Messi who has given that much to the team."

Under the leadership of Pep Guardiola, Sanchez was part of the star-studded Barca squad that won the Champions League, LaLiga and Copa del Rey in 2008-09 – playing alongside Messi as well as Thierry Henry, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Yaya Toure, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Samuel Eto'o.

"I read a lot of comments when I was younger," Sanchez said when asked if he remembered some of the reaction and comments to Messi's emergence at Barca. "I am the same age as Messi, and I read a lot about a player of 16-17 who was superb in the academy. The thing is when I reached the first team, he was playing for three years in the first team.

"I was 20-21 at that time and he was already a star in the first team. However, it is true there were comments on a player in the second team who was going to be a big player and he has become it.

"You could see he was different since he was a child. As you see in others, you could also see on him."

Is Kylian Mbappe's future nearing a resolution?

Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season and the Paris Saint-Germain forward is no closer to extending his contract in the
French capital.

Real Madrid are reportedly poised to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID NEARING MBAPPE DEAL?

Real Madrid are closing in on Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Monday's Marca.

Mbappe is in the final year of his PSG contract and he has reportedly made it clear he has no intention of re-signing in Paris.

Long touted to join Madrid, the LaLiga giants' pursuit of Mbappe is set to enter a decisive phase this week.

The Transfer Window podcast, however, claims Liverpool will attempt to sign Mbappe on a free transfer at the end of the 2021-22 season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Barcelona are monitoring Arsenal pair Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as they look to rebuild following Lionel Messi's departure to PSG.

- Inter are eyeing Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne but want a discount on the Italy star, claims Sky Sport Italia. Napoli value Insigne at around €25-30million with one year remaining on his contract. Lazio's Joaquin Correa, Atalanta forward Duvan Zapata and Fiorentina sensation Dusan Vlahovic have also been linked to Inter.

- Sport Italia says Tottenham are in talks with Fiorentina for centre-back Nikola Milenkovic, who has been linked with West Ham. Spurs are also keen on Fiorentina star Vlahovic, according to Sport Italia.

- According to Cadena SER, Antoine Griezmann is open to returning to Atletico Madrid this off-season. Griezmann swapped Atletico for Barca in 2019.

Luka Jovic has decided he wants to join Inter on loan, per Nerazzurri Siamo Noi. The Madrid outcast has also been linked with Eintracht Frankfurt, Sampdoria and Genoa.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are tracking Metz's 18-year-old midfielder Pape Matar Sarr, claims the Daily Mail.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique compared Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe to Brazilian great Ronaldo as he hailed Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

Mbappe and Haaland are two of the most in-demand players in the transfer market, with LaLiga giants Real Madrid reportedly interested in both.

PSG's Mbappe – entering the final year of his contract in Paris – has long been tipped to join Madrid, while Haaland has also been linked with Barca, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

Mbappe scored in PSG's 4-2 Ligue 1 win at home to Strasbourg on Saturday, having now either scored or assisted in seven consecutive matches in the competition (eight goals, four assists).

Haaland took his tally to 62 goals in 61 games for Dortmund after bagging a brace as the German giants opened their Bundesliga season with a 5-2 rout of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Pique was asked to pick between Mbappe and Haaland in an appearance on Twitch following Barca's 4-2 victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday, and he replied: "Mbappe and Haaland are different.

"One is very similar to Ronaldo Luis Nazario, who is Mbappe. Haaland is more powerful, stronger, he is a goal killer."

Barca kicked off the Lionel Messi-less era by seeing off Sociedad at Camp Nou in the opening game of the LaLiga season.

Messi – the club's all-time leading goalscorer – joined PSG after his contract expired, with Barca's financial difficulties forcing the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to leave.

"It was tough," Pique said on Messi's exit. "I have known him since I was 13 years old.

"He has made us all better. We have to accept it because it is reality. We will all step forward to be competitive."

Lionel Messi is a Paris Saint-Germain player. Even though we've had a few days to let that sink in, it still seems such a perplexing scenario.

Messi has signed a two-year deal at the Parc des Princes and will form probably the most-feared front three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and his old friend Neymar.

Barcelona's dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions, meaning they begin their 2021-22 campaign on Sunday against Real Sociedad with a gaping void in their team.

This will be the first season since 2003-04 that Barca haven't been able to call upon the Argentina superstar, and his absence is sure to leave a lingering sense of astonishment that won't clear for a while, particularly if the Blaugrana endure a difficult start to the campaign.

Of course, Barca's hands were ultimately tied in this shocking saga, their financial state so rocky that signing Messi up to a new contract after his previous deal expired was literally impossible. Although the two parties had an agreement, the numbers simply wouldn't work.

The world will now watch on with fascination as Messi represents a new club for the first time in his career, while back in Catalonia, Barca must carry on like nothing's happened.

That'll be difficult to do. Using Opta data, Stats Perform looks at some of the incredible feats that make Messi irreplaceable.

 

Messi played 778 games for Barcelona in all competitions, scoring 672 goals and providing 265 assists across those games. That amounts to 937 goal involvements during his Barca career, which began as a 17-year-old.

Previously a one-club man, his first appearance for Barcelona came under Frank Rijkaard against Espanyol in October 2004, while his first goal arrived seven months later with a clever lob against Albacete at Camp Nou from a Ronaldinho assist.

Brazil great Ronaldinho was the last Barcelona player to wear the famed number 10 before Messi took that shirt in 2008 and made it his own.

But Ronaldinho does not feature among the top assisters for Messi goals, a list that is led by Luis Suarez (47)Dani Alves assisted 42 of the attacker's goals and third is Andres Iniesta with 37, six more than fellow legendary midfielder Xavi.

 

Messi played under eight different coaches during his time with Barcelona. Of those, he featured most often (219 appearances) and scored the most goals (211) during Pep Guardiola's tenure.

However, the 60 goals Messi scored in 50 games under the late Tito Vilanova – an average of 1.20 goals per match – was his best goals-per-game return with a single coach.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Messi's lowest average goals-per-game ratio was during the Rijkaard era at the start of his career (0.38), followed by the 0.63 managed under Quique Setien between January and August 2020.

 

Messi's most prolific season as a Barcelona player was in 2011-12 when scoring a remarkable 73 goals in all competitions and providing a further 28 assists, setting a personal record in both categories.

Indeed, the forward netted 79 goals for his club across the calendar year in 2012, which is a record amount by a single player. His next most prolific year was 2010 when registering 58 times.

In more recent years, Messi managed 51 goals in 2016, 50 goals in 2017, 47 goals in 2018, 45 goals in 2019 and 26 goals in 2020 – a steady decline that he has already rectified this year, having scored 28 times in the first half of 2021.

He is the only player to have scored 10 or more goals in 15 consecutive LaLiga seasons.

 

Messi's 672 goals for Barcelona were scored against 82 different teams. Sevilla were his favourite opponent, finding the net against them 38 times in 43 appearances.

Atletico Madrid were next on that particular list, with Messi bagging 32 goals in that fixture, followed by Valencia (31), Athletic Bilbao (29) and bitter rivals Real Madrid (26), making him the all-time leading scorer in El Clasico.

In terms of individual goalkeepers, Diego Alves was Messi's most frequent victim, the former Almeria and Valencia man having conceded 21 goals against the Argentina superstar.

Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas was joint-third with 17 goals against, one fewer than the 18 Messi put past Gorka Iraizoz.

 

Messi is of course synonymous with Camp Nou, a ground where he has scored 394 goals in 381 games at an average of 1.03 per match. Madrid fans will be particularly sick of him as he has scored 15 times in 22 games at the Santiago Bernabeu – his second favourite venue.

That is followed by the Vicente Calderon, Atletico's old home (14 goals in 20 appearances). Deportivo La Coruna's Riazor (13 in eight) and Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan (13 in 18) complete the top five.

It's fair to say Barca have an almighty task on their hands in replacing him.

 

Messi's other notable records and achievements

– Messi is LaLiga's all-time leading scorer with 474 goals and is the second-highest scorer ever in Europe's top five leagues behind Cristiano Ronaldo (476).

– He scored in 21 consecutive LaLiga games between November 2012 and May 2013, a record for a player in the competition's history.

– Messi is one of only two players to reach 100 goals in Champions League history (120), alongside Cristiano Ronaldo (134).

– He was the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match, doing so against Bayer Leverkusen in March 2012 at Camp Nou.

– The Argentina forward is one of six players to score more than 50 goals in the Copa del Rey's history and the only one to score in six different finals in the tournament (Telmo Zarra scored in five).

Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino insists he did not hear the jeers directed at Kylian Mbappe before and during Saturday's 4-2 Ligue 1 win over Strasbourg.

Mbappe – making his 150th Ligue 1 appearance – was a leading light for PSG at the Parc des Princes, getting an assist for Julian Draxler and also finding the net via a massive deflection off Ludovic Ajorque in the first half.

He was a regular threat to the Strasbourg defence but will likely be frustrated not to have added more goals as he was denied by Matz Sels twice in the second period.

Despite consistently being the biggest danger in a PSG side that faded badly in the second half and saw their 3-0 lead cut to 3-2, Mbappe was targeted by certain sections of the crowd.

The France international is into the final year of his contract at the club, and although president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said Mbappe had no reason not to extend his deal following the signing of Lionel Messi, an agreement still eludes PSG as Real Madrid circle.

However, Pochettino is convinced Mbappe remains utterly focused.

 

"Kylian is focused on our goals. He did well and I am very happy with his performance. He must continue like this," said Pochettino.

"I didn't hear the whistles against Mbappe."

Earlier in the evening it was all cheers for the fans in the Parc des Princes, which welcomed a capacity crowd for the first time since February 2020. Those in attendance got their first glimpse of Messi following his arrival from Barcelona.

Messi and his fellow new signings – including former Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos – were presented on the pitch before the game to a raucous ovation, though neither of those two actually played.

Pochettino wished he could have joined in the celebrations.

"It was a great day for the PSG family, there was an amazing atmosphere," Pochettino said.

"I was not present during the presentation of the signings, but the feedback we got was that it was incredible.

"All players need to feel this affection from the fans. I want to congratulate the whole club again. We experienced something moving. I would have preferred to be outside the changing rooms to experience this.

"It's always nice to see our supporters up close. Football is different with the public. A year and a half later, it feels good."

Paris Saint-Germain had last played in front of a full Parc des Princes on February 29 last year, a 4-0 win over Dijon. It's unlikely many fans in attendance on that day would have contemplated the idea of Lionel Messi being present upon their next visit.

Yet despite Messi not actually being involved, his presence was certainly felt.

The Barcelona great – like the rest of PSG's new signings – was paraded on the pitch before kick-off of Saturday's visit of Strasbourg, simultaneously setting fans' tongues wagging and surely leaving Ligue 1 defenders quaking in their boots, if they weren't already.

As Messi stood there with a big grin on his face, arm around Sergio Ramos of all people, the sheer nonsense of the situation just set in a little more. Previously two pillars of arguably the most famous rivalry in world football, now they're both party to the same 'galactico' project in Paris.

Understandably, the pre-match show helped stir up an incredible atmosphere, and it all seemed to rub off on the players as well, with PSG 3-0 up inside 27 minutes.

But if there was one thing PSG's eventual 4-2 victory suggested, it was that Ramos' arrival is arguably the more important of the two transfers.

After all, Messi wasn't the only one of their soon-to-be first-choice front three absent; Neymar was sat up in the stands next to him, owing to lack of fitness following his Copa America exploits.

But they still had Kylian Mbappe out strutting his stuff, seemingly relishing all eyes being on him, the France superstar tormenting the Strasbourg defence relentlessly with his direct running and astonishing pace.

Perhaps it was a taste of what life might be like at Real Madrid should he choose not to renew in Paris; he was the main man and the star of the show, whereas he'll soon have to share the spotlight with not just Neymar but his old Barcelona pal as well.

That's not to say Mbappe looked anything other than focused on where he was, in what was his 150th Ligue 1 appearance.

 

Soon after Mauro Icardi – another big name, though one who'll likely be reduced to a back-up role – nodded PSG in front in just the third minute, Mbappe carved open the Strasbourg defence with a disguised pass in from the left, though it was ultimately a little too deceptive as it even caught Georginio Wijnaldum flat-footed.

He was then in the thick of the action as PSG went 2-0 up, cutting in from the left and hammering a ferocious effort that went in off Ludovic Ajorque, and Mbappe did much of the damage to make it 3-0, too.

Stepover. Shimmy. Another stepover and then an explosion of pace. He made himself the tiniest bit of space to squeeze a left-footed cross into the danger zone and Julian Draxler was on hand to tap in.

Mbappe somehow failed to add another himself, shooting at Matz Sels twice after the break. The second of which, in the 62nd minute, was a particularly strong opportunity with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.35 – the one he created for Draxler was 0.90.

By that point Strasbourg had already been given some encouragement, with Kevin Gameiro capitalising on the shoddy awareness of Achraf Hakimi and Thilo Kehrer in the 53rd minute to ghost between them and head in.

Then, swiftly after Mbappe's second miss, Ajorque made a mockery of Presnel Kimpembe as he slashed the deficit to one goal with an emphatic header that also left Keylor Navas helpless.

 

For a significant part of the second half, Strasbourg looked the better team. PSG had seemingly become comfortable with their lead and that complacency was being capitalised on by the visitors.

But two yellow cards in quick succession for Alexander Djiku essentially spelled game over for Strasbourg, and PSG made it 4-2 soon after through Pablo Sarabia.

Majeed Waris should have pulled one back, his shot into the side-netting seeing him waste a chance with an xG value of 0.38, making it the worst miss of the day.

 

Mauricio Pochettino's men ultimately survived this scare, but their second-half drop-off will have been a real worry for the head coach and his staff – had Strasbourg got the score back to 3-3, it would have been utterly humiliating.

While this was of course a PSG without Marquinhos, their defensive frailty and seeming arrogance when thinking the game was won had Ramos' signing looking like an absolute necessity.

Lionel Messi was in the stands at the Parc des Princes on Saturday to see his new Paris Saint-Germain team-mates make hard work of a 4-2 win over Strasbourg in Ligue 1.

Neither Messi nor Neymar were included in Mauricio Pochettino's squad as they build fitness at the start of the season, although PSG's latest signing was paraded on the pitch alongside Sergio Ramos and their other recruits before the match.

It was Kylian Mbappe who was front and centre once the action got under way, netting the second goal before creating the third for Julian Draxler and the fourth for Pablo Sarabia after Mauro Icardi – surely one of the men to make way in a full-strength XI – had opened the scoring.

Sarabia's goal came following Alexander Djiku's late red card, prior to which Strasbourg threatened to wipe out PSG's lead, hitting back through Kevin Gameiro and Ludovic Ajorque to dampen the party mood a little.

The game had begun amid a raucous atmosphere and there were just 139 seconds on the clock when Icardi met Abdou Diallo's left-wing cross with a fine header, deemed onside following a VAR review.

Strasbourg did not immediately fold, but two deflections in quick succession appeared to put the game beyond them.

First, Mbappe cut inside from the left and arrowed in a shot that was redirected beyond Matz Sels by an unwitting Ajorque, then the France forward went to the byline and his cross looped up off Lucas Perrin for Draxler to tap in.

However, Sels blocked bravely from Mbappe at the start of the second half, allowing Strasbourg to go down the other end and score as former PSG forward Gameiro expertly nodded beyond Keylor Navas.

In a repeat of earlier in the half, Sels then denied Mbappe and Ajorque produced an even better header to prompt real nerves in the home ranks.

But Djiku, already booked, was carded once more for a foul on Icardi, reducing Strasbourg to 10 men and putting PSG back in the ascendancy, with another Mbappe run down the left resulting in a simple finish for Sarabia.

What does it mean? Complacency a concern

PSG were the better side in the first half, but the scoreline flattered them a little. If not for a marginal offside call and a couple of fortuitous deflections, the teams might have headed into the break all square.

So Pochettino would have been worried to see his players seemingly consider the job done as they returned after the interval, allowing Strasbourg to gain a foothold – with 51.5 per cent of the possession in the first 15 minutes of the second half – and almost tear up the script entirely.

Mbappe makes hay

Mbappe had not netted for club or country since before Euro 2020, but he is a dominant force in Ligue 1, now having either scored or assisted in seven consecutive matches in the competition (eight goals, four assists).

The star attraction in the absence of Messi and Neymar, Mbappe had the freedom to play primarily from the left, with 47.6 per cent of PSG's attacks coming down that flank before the break.

Missing Marquinhos

Messi and Neymar were not the only big names in attendance, with Ramos and, notably, Marquinhos also in the stands rather than on the pitch.

And while Mbappe was able to lead the line effectively, the stand-in defenders were less impressive. Strasbourg were allowed to have eight attempts, with both goals coming from crosses – two of three that found visiting players in the PSG area.

What's next?

As PSG fans eagerly await Messi's debut, they next turn their focus to Friday's trip to Brest. Strasbourg host Troyes next Sunday.

Atletico Madrid did not speak with Lionel Messi about the possibility of reuniting him with Luis Suarez at the club, according to coach Diego Simeone.

After Barca's financial difficulties forced a tearful Messi to announce his exit from the club last week, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner signed a two-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain on Monday.

Messi is now poised to form a frightening front three with former Barcelona team-mate Neymar and France star Kylian Mbappe.

There had been talk of him linking up with the other former member of Barca's fabled MSN forward line and signing for LaLiga champions Atletico.

But Simeone denied there had been any communication between the club and the Argentina international.

Simeone told a media conference ahead of Atletico's LaLiga opener at Celta Vigo: "[Messi] is a really important departure for LaLiga and for Barcelona.

"We weren't talking with him. We didn't have the slightest chance."

On the impact of Messi's exit on LaLiga, Simeone added: "I understand that not even the Premier League has Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo, and it's a very competitive league.

"It will depend on the growth of all the teams to be able to make a competitive league without having either of [those players], as England have done."

Messi's departure would appear to be a significant boost to Atletico's hopes of fending off both Barca and Real Madrid once more and retaining the title.

But Simeone clearly has little interest in talk of Atletico being title favourites.

"We will not change our path, which is game by game, to understand what the league is like," he said. 

"There is no better way to compete than how we have been doing so in the last nine and a half years."

Lionel Messi will be made to wait for his Paris Saint-Germain debut after being left out of Mauricio Pochettino's 22-man squad for Saturday's Ligue 1 clash with Strasbourg.

The Argentina international completed a shock move from to PSG on Tuesday, having left Barcelona, but has not played since the Copa America final on July 10 and has only trained twice with his new team-mates.

Pochettino suggested on the eve of the game with Strasbourg that he would not take any risks regarding Messi's fitness and it has now been confirmed the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will play no part at the Parc des Princes.

Neymar is also not included in the squad as he builds up his fitness following his own participation at the Copa America with beaten finalists Brazil, while Gianluigi Donnarumma, Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria are other high-profile omissions.

Meanwhile, it was announced on Friday that Sergio Ramos, signed on a free transfer from Real Madrid last month, will be out of action until after September's international break through injury.

Kylian Mbappe is in contention to play a part against Strasbourg, however, and the France star will make his 150th league appearance for PSG and Monaco should he feature.

The World Cup winner has scored 107 goals across that period – only Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted more in this first 150 appearances over the last 40 campaigns (113 goals in 122 games).

PSG kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a 2-1 comeback win at Troyes last week and are seeking back-to-back wins to begin a new league season for the first time in three years.

Pochettino's men are unbeaten in their 30 Ligue 1 home games against Strasbourg (W23 D7), which is a French top-flight record for one team at home against a specific opponent.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti expressed his shock at Lionel Messi's Barcelona departure in a pre-match news conference that was dominated by questions relating to Kylian Mbappe.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner ended his 21-year association with Barca on Tuesday by penning an initial two-year deal at Paris Saint-Germain with the option of a third.

Messi looked set to sign a new contract with Barca, but the cash-strapped club were unable to fulfil the agreement in place with their greatest ever player.

It means there is a massive void in the Blaugrana's team, given he directly contributed to 39 goals in LaLiga last season – scoring 30 and setting up a further nine.

Antoine Griezmann was the only other player to reach double figures for goal involvements (20), with Ousmane Dembele next on the list with nine.

In will be the first season since 2003-04 that Barca have been unable to call upon Messi, and Ancelotti – set to begin his second spell in charge of Madrid – acknowledged it caught him off guard.

"I'm surprised, shocked," he told reporters ahead of Saturday's LaLiga opener against Deportivo Alaves.

"He was always Barca's emblem really, since he was a child. But I've been in this game 40 years, I've seen lots of players change allegiances. I fully respect his decision and Barcelona's decision."

 

Nevertheless, he does not think the loss of Messi will impact Barca dramatically.

"I'm pretty sure Barca will still be a rival, and Atletico," he continued. "Barca even without Messi is still one of the biggest clubs in the world, I don't think much will change."

Messi's new PSG team-mate Mbappe was also a hot topic of conversation on Friday.

The France international is now in the final year of his contract and has been strongly linked with a move to Madrid for a while, though PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi feels Mbappe now has no excuse not to renew his deal following the arrival of Messi.

Ancelotti was reluctant to speak about Mbappe, even as reporters persistently pressed him on Madrid's apparent interest.

"I'm not keen on talking about players who aren't part of my squad," he told them. "I'm happy with the squad, I've a good mix of veterans and good up-and-coming players.

"I've seen some good young players training, players for the future but who could also be important now, like [Antonio] Blanco, Miguel [Gutierrez], [Marvin] De La Fuente, [Victor] Chust.

"Then there's veterans like Casemiro, Luka Modric... Casemiro's improved a lot since I was last here.

"So, I don't think it's right for me to talk about players who aren't at this club. I'm a football fan and happy to see these players here, seeing them training and working day in, day out.

"I still have a great relationship with the PSG owner, I was of course a coach there, I worked at a fantastic club and had a great working relationship with him, but I don't know what he's thinking [regarding Mbappe's future]."

Another forward Madrid have been linked with is Everton's Richarlison, who Ancelotti coached while at Goodison Park, and the Italian was a little more forthcoming about his opinion on the Brazil attacker.

"I'm really fond of him," he said. "He's an Everton footballer and I don't like to talk about players who play for other clubs, but of course I'm really fond of him."

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