In Depth

PSG’s striker situation: keep Kylian Mbappe by selling Neymar or risk losing both?

Star forwards continue to be linked with Spanish football’s top two clubs

On paper everything’s going pretty well for French champions Paris Saint-Germain. 

They are top of Ligue 1 with a 13-point lead over their nearest rivals, are through to the French Cup final after beating Lyon 5-1 and will also face the same club in the French League Cup final on 4 April.  

In the Uefa Champions League, PSG were beaten 2-1 by Borussia Dortmund in the last-16 first leg in Germany on 18 February.

However, the Parisiens will be confident of overturning the one-goal deficit when they host Dortmund at the Parc des Princes on 11 March. 

The reason for their confidence will be the talent and recent form of their star strikers - Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. 

In Wednesday night’s 5-1 French Cup semi-final win over Lyon 21-year-old Mbappe scored a hat-trick, including a sensational solo goal, while 28-year-old Neymar got on the scoresheet with a second-half penalty. 

This season the dynamic duo have already contributed 47 goals to PSG’s trophy hunt. France international Mbappe has scored 30 goals in 32 matches while Brazil star Neymar has 17 goals in 21 games. 

With strike rates this impressive, PSG will be optimistic that their Champions League participation will continue past the last 16.

However, it also means that their star attackers will attract lots of interest from rivals clubs. Especially Real Madrid and Barcelona, who are once again circling…

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PSG striker Kylian Mbappe won the 2018 Fifa World Cup with France

Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Mbappe: the Ronaldo replacement?

Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018 Real Madrid have been linked with the world’s top strikers as they search to finally replace the Portuguese superstar. 

With a French legend at the helm, head coach Zinedine Zidane, it’s no surprise that they are regularly linked with 2018 Fifa World Cup winner Mbappe. 

In recent weeks it’s been claimed that there’s tension between Mbappe and PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel. The Daily Mail, citing Spanish publication Marca, says Real Madrid are aware of this and want the young forward to “become a key man of their team”. 

Marca adds that Mbappe has “not won the hearts of all fans” at PSG and despite having a contract in Paris until 2022 he has yet to enter negotiations. 

Zidane is a long-term admirer of Mbappe and Real are poised to enquire about the 21-year-old, who previously played for Monaco. 

In fact, Zidane likes Mbappe so much that he admitted he was “in love” with his countryman.

Speaking before a Real vs. PSG Champions League group match in November, Zizou said: “I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve been in love with him for a long time, but as a person first.”

Brazilian striker Neymar joined Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record £200m fee in August 2017

Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

Sell Neymar to keep Mbappe?

Mbappe’s strike partner Neymar is also linked with a move away from the French capital. 

The Daily Express reports that Neymar’s former club Barcelona are ready to sacrifice French international Antoine Griezmann in order to try and bring the Brazilian back to the Camp Nou this summer.

Neymar, who left Barca for PSG in a world-record £200m deal in 2017, has scored 68 goals in just 79 appearances and has struck a dangerous partnership with Mbappe.  

However, he has also had some rocky times at the Parc des Princes and Spanish paper AS and The Sun both report that PSG could sell him in order to keep Mbappe. 

PSG see Mbappe as their “crown jewel”, says the Sun, and will offer him a lucrative salary. Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the president of PSG, has made the striker’s renewal “a priority to the extent that the board see no other player as non-transferrable”.

Holy grail: the Champions League

On Saturday PSG return to Ligue 1 action with a trip to Strasbourg. Then on Wednesday they host Dortmund in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16

After winning everything there is to win in French domestic football, PSG and their Qatari owners once again see the Champions League as their holy grail. 

They will look to Mbappe and Neymar to fire them to victory against the Germans and secure their spot in the quarter-finals and beyond. 

Any team with Mbappe and Neymar in their ranks always stand a chance of lifting the big trophies, but with rival clubs looking to steal their prize assets, this may be the critical year in PSG’s plan to conquer Europe. 

If they lose to Dortmund or get knocked out later in the competition, the duo may seek pastures new. And without one, or both, of their star strikers, PSG’s long wait for the top trophy is likely to continue. 

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