Kylian Mbappé, a demoted leader who gets a lot of talk

The Parisian star did not have to speak on Monday for his name to be on everyone’s lips at the match eve press conference.

Article written by

Andrea La Perna – From our special correspondent in San Sebastian

France Télévisions – Sports Editorial



Reading time: 3 min

Kylian Mbappé in training on the eve of Real Sociedad-PSG in the Champions League, March 4, 2024, in San Sebastián.  (JOSE BRETON / AFP)

Since the start of the season, Paris has played the card of serenity through a communication effort supposed to deflate the Champions League obsession, and consequently calm the incandescent climate around the capital club, each major meeting brings its share of controversies and personal worries. It’s one step forward, another step back. Even when on a sporting level, PSG can finally approach a Champions League knockout match in a very favorable position.

The Kylian Mbappé soap opera has taken over. Each time we believe it is close to the outcome, the plot takes a new turn. The departure of Neymar was supposed to sweep away this feeling, as unpleasant as it was nagging. The question of Mbappé’s future finally seemed to be resolved. His departure at the end of the season is no longer in doubt, but nothing is official yet. His recent demotion from untouchable star to player status like any other by Luis Enrique has reactivated the dramaturgy.

Luis Enrique taunts the press

One thing is certain, no one expected that his last three months at PSG would take the form of a victory lap. The player’s strange parade at Louis-II, greeting his former supporters after his exit before joining his mother in the stands while the match was underway, seemed like it three months in advance. Four days after this surreal evening, the day before the C1 round of 16 second leg against Real Sociedad, the Kylian Mbappé case occupied a good part of the press conference.

Well prepared for his first major oral presentation in front of the media, Bradley Barcola showed off his art of dodging, this time off the field: “Honestly, [vendredi] I was focused on the match. I didn’t see what happened.” Luis Enrique applied the first question concerning his star player to a collective dimension: “What I hope from the team is that they live up to the challenge”. Relaunched, he decided: “The match is quite important, I have no further comment to make.”

On the third attempt to get an answer, he reached a milestone, smirking: “Translator, where are you? Come back! Ah, I think there was ‘Mbappé’ in the middle of your question.” A Spanish journalist ended up taking the trouble to translate the following question from French to Spanish: “When you said we had to prepare to play without him, does that also apply in the Champions League?” “Maybe yes, maybe no”, he replied to close the press conference. Getting up, Luis Enrique taunted his audience one last time: “IWe must accept the questions of journalists, but I answer as I want.”

Mbappé anything but affected

Before him, Take Kubo and his coach Imanol Alguacil had to answer the same question: is Kylian Mbappé’s tense situation an advantage for the Basque team? “No, I do not think so”, swept the Japanese player. The coach took the opposite view of the question: “If he plays, [le fait qu’il n’ait pas joué les derniers matchs intégralement fera qu’il] will be very fresh. If he doesn’t play, there will be another very good player in his place.” Asked about the management of the player by his counterpart, he was curt: “It’s a question for Luis Enrique, I already have enough to do with my players.”

The person concerned set foot on the Anoeta lawn under an overcast sky, but less threatening than at the start of the day. Laughing, cheerful, like his teammates, he didn’t let any of the media hype show. Seeing him speak in Spanish with goalkeeper Arnau Tenas on the pitch of one of the most iconic stadiums in La Liga had the effect of a little trailer. But before planning for the future, Kylian Mbappé still has a few lines to write about his Parisian adventure. Unless a disaster occurs on Tuesday and this trip to the Basque Country becomes his very last Champions League match with Paris Saint-Germain.

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