Pochettino ducks Ndombele question as PSG welcome back Messi

By Sports Desk January 22, 2022

Mauricio Pochettino declared Paris Saint-Germain are ready to do business before the transfer window closes – but refused to discuss Tanguy Ndombele.

Tottenham midfielder Ndombele is thought to be a target for the Ligue 1 leaders, with reports that a loan deal is being discussed between the clubs.

Pochettino brought Ndombele to Spurs in 2019 and thinks highly of the former Lyon playmaker, but a move back to France is not yet a formality.

The Argentine head coach declined to explain PSG's apparent interest in the 25-year-old when his name was mentioned in a news conference on Saturday.

"I don't like speaking about rumours or players who are at other clubs," said Pochettino. "We have a squad with enormous quality. The club made a huge effort in the summer to put together the best possible squad with the right balance.

"The transfer window is open now. It also depends on the players who are not getting many chances here. Or for whatever reasons it is that they want to leave.

"The window is open, and the club is always open. Not just to listen but also to see what is happening in the transfer market. I am pleased with the squad that I have. We will deal with individual matters as they come up."

Lionel Messi is poised for his first appearance of the year as Pochettino's team tackle Reims on Sunday, with Kylian Mbappe also set to feature after recovering from an adductor problem.

Messi made his PSG debut as a substitute when PSG and Reims met in August, with a double from Mbappe earning a 2-0 away win amid a whirlwind of global interest in the game.

"It will definitely be a different match to the first one we played against them," Pochettino said.

Messi is fit after a brush with COVID-19, and Pochettino added: "Leo Messi has trained this week. We are pleased with how he is coming along. He is going to be in the squad tomorrow.

"It is always good news when players who have been out for a while are able to return and be back in the squad to help the team."

Mbappe scored in last weekend's 2-0 win against Brest, before a midweek medical bulletin pointed to an injury.

"We are happy to see the way that his problem has evolved," Pochettino said. "He trained with us in the last two sessions. He is going to be in the squad tomorrow. We will decide tomorrow if he starts or is on the bench."

Messi has not scored in his last five domestic matches for PSG and has just six goals across all competitions since arriving from Barcelona.

He has hit the woodwork more than anybody in the French top flight this season (six) – more times than the entire Reims squad (five).

PSG have won each of their last three meetings with Reims in Ligue 1 without conceding a goal, achieving as many clean sheets in this sequence as in the first 11 between the two clubs in the 21st century.

Reims will clearly do well to take anything from Sunday's game, having not scored in their last two Ligue 1 games and with PSG having won 12 and drawn one of their last 13 home games in the competition.

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    Real Madrid will have been left shaken by Kylian Mbappe's decision to snub them in favour of a new contract at Paris Saint-Germain.

    It was common knowledge that Madrid wanted to bring in Mbappe and shape their team around the France striker for the next decade.

    The Spanish champions have been used to getting what they want, but this time they have failed to land their number one target, with PSG's financial muscle surely a major factor.

    Now Madrid president Florentino Perez must consider the club's next course of action. Do they rely on Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior next season, or has there been a back-up plan in case Mbappe reached this decision?

    Here, Stats Perform looks at players that Madrid could consider if they remain intent on bringing in a forward in the close season.

    Richarlison (Everton/Brazil)

    After five years spent fumbling around mid-table and the lower reaches of the Premier League with Watford and latterly Everton, Richarlison seems long overdue a move to a club where he might challenge for honours. The 25-year-old has previously been linked with Madrid and Barcelona, and more recently Manchester United, and he would bring a roving threat to any side he joins. Capable of playing wide or in the centre, or flitting between roles, Richarlison has reached double figures in Premier League goals in three of his four seasons with Everton, and in a World Cup year this could be the ideal time to move for the striker. Should he dazzle at Qatar 2022, that price tag could go skywards.

    Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain/Brazil)

    PSG were desperate to retain Mbappe, but would they feel the same way about Neymar? Five years into his PSG career, Neymar is now 30 years old and this is the first season when he has managed more than 20 league appearances for the Parisians. Injuries have disrupted his stay at the Parc des Princes, and while he remains a wonderfully gifted player and a joy to watch at times, if PSG want to recoup a chunk of the huge outlay that brought him to Paris from Barcelona, now might be the time for that. It would be an impudent approach for Madrid to make, and Neymar's Barcelona history adds a further complication, given the rivalry, but the player himself may be tempted.

    Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Poland)

    If Madrid have a statement signing in mind to ease the pain of missing Mbappe, then joining the race for Lewandowski and gazumping Barcelona would be one way of going about that. Lewandowski has told Bayern he wants to leave, and ideally before next season. Barcelona are certainly interested, but their financial problems are well known. Could Madrid be better placed to land the highest scorer from Europe's top five leagues this season? Lewandowski hit 50 goals in 46 games across all competitions for Bayern, with Madrid's Benzema second on the list and Mbappe third. Whether Madrid would want a player who turns 34 in August when they already have a 34-year-old frontman in Benzema is a moot point.

    Paulo Dybala (Juventus/Argentina)

    Mbappe would have arrived in Madrid on a free transfer, given his contract at PSG was coming to an end. If their priority is to pick up a forward without an initial transfer fee outlay, then Dybala becomes an option. Roma and a host of Premier League clubs have been linked with the Argentina international, whose Juventus contract is expiring. He has scored at least 15 goals in five of his seven seasons with Juve, and would bring a creative presence to Madrid, and bundles of trophy-winning experience.

    Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig/France)

    If Madrid cannot have Mbappe for now, then his and Benzema's France team-mate Nkunku looks like a strong alternative option. With 34 goals in 51 games for Leipzig this season (prior to Saturday's DFB-Pokal final), Nkunku has proven himself in Germany and in European competition, and the obvious next step is a move to a super-club. The 24-year-old PSG academy graduate pipped the likes of Lewandowski and Erling Haaland to be named the Bundesliga's player of the year, underlining his status as a growing force in the game.

    Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt)

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    217 - As he featured in PSG's starting XI against Metz, he has now made 217 appearances so far, more than any other player in the period since he joined the club. Of those appearances, 190 have been starts.

    168 - Before the Metz game, the forward had scored an incredible 168 goals for PSG, 72 more than Neymar, who was second on the list since Mbappe made his PSG bow.

    77 - Prior to the Metz game, he was also the leading assister since he joined PSG, creating 77 goals. 

    775 - As expected, he also topped the PSG squad for shots, having had 775, with 398 of those hitting the target. Magnifique.

    42 - No player had contributed to more goals across Europe's top five leagues this season heading into Saturday's match than Mbappe, who has been involved in 42.

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    15 - This season, Mbappe became the first player to score at least 15 goals and provide at least 15 assists in a single Ligue 1 campaign since Eden Hazard did so for Lille in the 2011-12 campaign.

    100 - When he scored against Lyon in March 2021, Mbappe became the youngest player to rack up 100 goals in Ligue 1, at the age of 22 years and 91 days. He is also the youngest player to net a century of goals in the top five European Leagues in the 21st century.

    2 - Mbappe is already the second-highest Ligue 1 scorer since the turn of the century, having scored 132 times in the competition before Saturday's game. Only PSG great Edinson Cavani, with 138, has netted more.

    1 - He is hoping to become the first player to finish as the highest goalscorer and the leading assist provider in the same Ligue 1 season since Opta began collecting such data in 2008.

    8 - Ever consistent, Mbappe had scored at least one goal and delivered at least one assist in eight different Ligue 1 games this season, the highest tally of his career in the same top-flight campaign, prior to the final match of the 2021-22 campaign.

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    50 - It is not just domestically that Mbappe has thrived. Since Opta collected such data, starting in the 2003-04 season, he is the fastest and youngest player to have reached 50 goal involvements in the Champions League, doing so in 51 matches, by the age of 22 years and 352 days.

    32 - As of kick-off against Metz, Mbappe was 32 goals shy of matching Cavani's club record of 200 for PSG.

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    Los Blancos made multiple bids for Mbappe in 2021, but all were turned down by PSG.

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    Mbappe was voted Ligue 1 player of the season for a third successive time last week, before declaring at the Union Nationale des Footballeurs Professionnels award ceremony in Paris that he would resolve his future before France's Nations League fixtures in June.

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    Mbappe was paraded on the pitch before the game at Parc des Princes, with a "2025" shirt.

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