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Kylian Mbappe: PSG's spoiled child risks tearing Galtier's team apart with Neymar feud and silly strops

08:00 BST 11/10/2022
Kylian Mbappe PSG 2022-23 HIC 16:9
The 23-year-old is a great player, but his petulance is embarrassing and becoming a major distraction for his club, coach and colleagues.

Just under three years ago, Kylian Mbappe came off the bench to score a hat-trick in Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League win over Club Brugge – and yet Christophe Dugarry was deeply concerned. "I'm afraid the dream could be broken with this boy; I feel that things could quickly turn bad," the former France international told RMC.

While nearly everyone else was focusing on the latest thrilling demonstration of Mbappe's prodigious talent, Dugarry was preoccupied with the forward's post-match comments.

Mbappe made it clear that he had both wanted and expected to start the game in Belgium. He acknowledged "It's the coach's decision and you have to accept it." But then immediately added, "I wanted to show again that it's hard to do without me."

He certainly proved his point. And his desire to make his presence felt was interpreted by most pundits as the attitude of a true champion; that unwavering confidence in his own ability and the belief that he should always be on the field.

Dugarry, though, saw something else: a burgeoning sense of entitlement. He feared that the teenager, who had once skipped a title-winning party at Monaco to get sufficient sleep, was in danger of becoming a prima donna at PSG.

He predicted a "war of egos" at Parc des Princes if Mbappe’s was allowed to grow unchecked. "Maybe I’m a little hard on him," Dugarry added, "but it's just as important to be a good guy as a great player."

Three years on, the World Cup winner's words are proving sadly prophetic.

There is a civil war brewing behind the scenes at PSG and Mbappe is at the centre of it because of his increasingly egotistical behaviour.

This season has been littered with examples of petulance, with the latest coming after Saturday's scoreless draw with Reims, with the forward taking a not-so-subtle swipe at his team's tactics.

All it took was the use of hashtag '#pivotgang' – a pointed reference to Mbappe's dissatisfaction with being employed as a lone striker by PSG boss Christophe Galtier, which he first expressed in public while on international duty last month.

"I play differently [with France]” he told L’Equipe. “I am asked [to do] other things here compared to with my club. I have a lot more freedom here.

“The coach knows that there is a No.9 like [Olivier Giroud], who occupies the defences and I can walk around and go into space. In Paris, it's different, there isn't that [reference point]. I am asked to do ‘the pivot’ (play as a lone striker), so it is different.”

Galtier diplomatically described Mbappe’s criticism as “analysis” and labelled it “fair”, acknowledging that the plan had been to sign a more orthodox centre-forward during the summer.

“It is a conversation I had with him during the pre-season and one that I also had with the president and (sporting director) Luis Campos," the former Nice boss said. “We were all convinced that we needed a fourth player with a different profile. But this fourth player never came.”

And Galtier admitted that was “a shame”, but he was also keen to point out that while the PSG attacking set-up is very different to that of France, it is not without its own “interesting” advantages, given Mbappe gets to play alongside Neymar and Lionel Messi.

It's also worth adding that PSG are performing well under Galtier, with both Neymar and Messi once again flourishing in a side that remains unbeaten in all competitions.

Mbappe’s moaning, then, is a little difficult to accept, particularly as PSG effectively gave him everything he wanted during their negotiations over a new contract during the summer.

And yet it is entirely in keeping with his childish behaviour since then.

PSG have denied that Mbappe effectively became a de facto sporting director when he agreed a three-year extension that included a €100 million (£88m/$97m) signing-on fee, but GOAL understands that president Nasser Al-Khelaifi did promise him major changes to the squad and at boardroom level.

The player himself took to social media to rubbish a report that he requested the departure of 14 employees during the summer, including Neymar and former coach Mauricio Pochettino, yet there is a growing fear that in their desperation to hold on their most prized possession, PSG have effectively created a monster.

His silly on-field strop against Montpellier was certainly indicative of a player who has grown too big for his boots. Indeed, it was pathetic to see Mbappe turn his back on the play and effectively stop playing after being overlooked for a pass by Vitinha.

Galtier, who must already be growing weary of explaining Mbappe’s actions, tried to pass it off as a physical issue: fatigue caused by a heavy workload. But Mbappe’s frustration was clear to see. Even Marco Verratti admitted afterwards that his team-mate had “sulked” after not being given the ball.

The Italian also tried to defend Mbappe, arguing that such behaviour was “normal” and that all great players always want to “make a difference”.

"It's good when he's angry," the Italian midfielder told Canal Plus, "as it means he cares about this team."

The concern is, though, that he cares only about his role within the team, both on and off the field.

As reported by GOAL, Mbappe’s simmering feud with Neymar reached boiling point in August. The pair were previously close. Neymar described them as akin to brothers as recently as last year.

There were, however, always concerns that the Brazilian might prove a bad influence, given his extravagant lifestyle.

Emmanuel Petit also felt that Mbappe had been “Neymarised”, namely becoming more interested in entertainment than efficiency, with the irony being that in arguably growing more alike, the duo have drifted further and further apart.

Indeed, at the start of the summer, it seemed that there was no longer any room for Neymar at the Parc des Princes. GOAL revealed that PSG were open to selling the Brazilian, but he had no intention of uprooting so close to a World Cup. His sole focus was being fully fit and in form for Qatar.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Neymar made a blistering start to the 2022-23 campaign, thus re-establishing himself as a key player in the starting line-up and, more importantly, the dressing room.

Mbappe, by contrast, felt that having been made "the cornerstone of the club's project" by Al-Khelaifi, he was not being afforded the same level of respect by his peers as Neymar, who has a longstanding friendship with Messi, and quickly found an ally in former Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.

The tension between the two attackers went public against Montpellier, with the pair squabbling over a spot-kick. Having already missed one penalty, Mbappe wanted to take another to make amends. Neymar, though, was having one of it and refused to step aside.

It was all very undignified, and highly embarrassing for PSG. A team meeting was subsequently arranged and the players were told to bury the hatchet and resolve any further issues behind closed doors.

Neymar remained resentful, continuing to blame Mbappe for the unseemly drama, but, crucially, under the advice of Ramos, he stayed silent. Mbappe, meanwhile, admitted that while that he retains a great respect for Neymar's "influence on the team", their relationship blows hot and cold.

PSG could have done without him saying anything, of course, but keeping Mbappe quiet is proving difficult, as his latest social media post underlined. Such public shows of dissatisfaction are becoming a serious source of distraction at PSG, who were also less than impressed with Mbappe sparking more transfer talk by commenting on potentially joining Real Madrid in the future.

If Carlo Ancelotti was utterly exasperated by the revival of that link, imagine how Galtier, Campos and everyone else at the Parc des Princes must have felt.

Such posts and comments from Mbappe may seem innocuous but, given his status, they are incredibly significant, and by consequence, destabilising. And he knows that.

He may still be a young man but he is acutely aware of how his every move is scrutinised, and therefore how impactful his actions – and more importantly – his words can be.

Mbappe has done remarkably and admirably well to cope with the pressure that has been placed upon his shoulders since he first exploded onto the scene as a teenager. He has previously demonstrated both impressive levels of maturity and leadership.

As Campos correctly pointed out, with Neymar off form and Messi struggling to settle, Mbappe held PSG together last season – now, though, he is in danger of tearing them apart.

The 23-year-old is starting to look like a player that believes himself to be bigger than the club – and perhaps that’s not his fault, given PSG effectively made it look that way during the summer by bending over backwards to renew his contract and keep him away from Madrid.

Maybe it was even inevitable. After all, it would be difficult for anyone to remain grounded after being granted such a lofty status, especially a footballer as talented as Mbappe.

The bottom line is that without a serious reality check, there is a very real fear now that Dugarry’s dream may well be broken.

Because while Mbappe has become an even greater player over the past three years, he’s now being viewed more as a spoiled child than a good guy.