Pochettino suggests Mbappe may have to leave PSG to realise Ballon d'Or potential

By Sports Desk November 19, 2022

Mauricio Pochettino has hinted Kylian Mbappe may need to leave his Paris Saint-Germain "comfort zone" to develop into a Ballon d'Or contender.

World Cup winner Mbappe, who will look to help France defend their crown in Qatar, has repeatedly been linked with a move away from the Parc des Princes to Real Madrid.

The Spanish and European champions appeared set to lure Mbappe to Madrid on a free transfer ahead of the 2022-23 season, only for the forward to sign a bumper three-year extension with PSG in May.

Further uncertainty clouded the 23-year-old's future as fresh reports of discontent emerged in October, though Mbappe assured his commitment remains in the French capital.

Yet, former PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino suggested the ex-Monaco attacker might have to move on to fully realise his world-class potential.

Pochettino told Spanish newspaper El Pais: "He may be a leader because everyone sees him as the best striker in the world, but today the Ballon d'Or has been won by Benzema, who is French like him. The evolution of Mbappe comes from leaving the comfort zone.

"Renewing for PSG is good for the club and its fans. But Mbappe in the future will have to consider that leaving his comfort zone will bring him closer to fighting for the Ballon d'Or."

Mbappe has found the net 19 times in 20 appearances for PSG this term, a tally only bettered by Manchester City's Erling Haaland (23) among players in Europe's top five leagues.

The PSG star became just the second teenager to score in a World Cup final (after Pele in 1958) at his first major international tournament in 2018, though Pochettino believes Mbappe is still "immature".

"Mbappe is younger than [Lionel Messi and Neymar] and still immature," Pochettino said. "But he has won a World Cup. He is an animal, he has great charisma but still needs to find himself.

"Leo and Ney are total players, they are more responsible although in different ways."

Mbappe will hope to fire France to more World Cup glory as Les Bleus start their campaign in the Middle East against Australia in Tuesday's Group D clash.

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    Jude Bellingham will hold no grudges if Real Madrid team-mate Vinicius Junior wins the Ballon d'Or, saying "I'd feel just as proud as if I won it".

    The England international was voted LaLiga's Player of the Season following a tremendous maiden campaign with Madrid, who he helped land a 36th league title.

    Bellingham scored 19 goals and had six assists in 28 league games this season, while tallying 35 goal contributions across all competitions for Los Blancos.

    His exploits led former Madrid and England striker Michael Owen to claim he has a "massive chance" of winning the Ballon d'Or, though the 20-year-old believes there is a more suitable candidate for the accolade.

    "I'm not really too fussed about it," he said. "I always thought the Ballon d'Or and those sorts of things were for the strikers, the wingers and the flashy players.

    "I know I can entertain the crowd, but no-one can do it like Vini. When he's at his best, I think he's the best player in the world. I know he likes to say the same about me, and that's the kind of relationship we have. 

    "You don't always have to be friends with your team-mates, but it helps when you can be so close off the pitch as well. And then, on the pitch, it reflects. We have a good understanding of each other's movements.

    "To be honest, if he was to win it, I'd feel just as proud as if I won it, because I know I've helped contribute to the success."

    Both players are likely to feature in Saturday's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium, when Los Blancos seek a record-extending 15th Champions League title.

  • Rodrygo hits out at Madrid exit speculation ahead of Mbappe switch Rodrygo hits out at Madrid exit speculation ahead of Mbappe switch

    Kylian Mbappe reportedly nearing a move to Real Madrid does not change the intentions of Rodrygo, who hit out at speculation to end any uncertainty over his future in Spain.

    Carlo Ancelotti's side are expected to complete the signing of long-term target Mbappe after the France international announced his intentions to leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of this season.

    With Vinicius Junior and Jude Bellingham to call upon, Los Blancos will have three of the world's best – and most exciting – young attacking talent to choose from.

    Rodrygo may have to settle for a backup role behind that star trio and suggested in an interview to Placar TV earlier this month that he may be open to a Premier League move.

    Yet the Brazilian took to social media late on Tuesday to rubbish those reports of discontent in the Spanish capital.

    "A very annoying situation occurred today, where one of my interviews was completely taken out of context," the Brazilian posted on X. 

    "To be very direct, I am very happy at Real Madrid, I live a dream every day and it does not cross my mind to leave the club of my life!"

    Rodrygo has scored 17 times across all competitions this season, adding a further eight assists for his 25 goal involvements.

    The 23-year-old's direct goal contributions this term can only be bettered by Bellingham (35) and Vinicius (32), as Madrid prepare for the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.

    A 15th European title is within touching distance, with Madrid's 14 already seven more than any other side in history, and Rodrygo insists his full focus remains on Los Blancos' success at Wembley Stadium.

    "Now we continue with history to make, by 15... HALA MADRID AND NOTHING MORE!"

  • Mbappe's Madrid move nears but Deschamps focused on France collective Mbappe's Madrid move nears but Deschamps focused on France collective

    Kylian Mbappe will draw plenty of attention as speculation swirls over an impending move to Real Madrid, but France head coach Didier Deschamps is not one to place much focus on his superstar forward.

    The France international is reportedly readying to complete his switch to Madrid, after announcing the 2023-24 campaign will be his last with Paris Saint-Germain.

    Los Blancos are not expected to confirm the deal until after Saturday's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund, though focus will swiftly turn to Euro 2024 later next month.

    Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Mbappe dominated the line of questioning – but Deschamps remains unbothered by the speculation and acknowledged he is content to "adapt" to the situation.

    "It doesn't depend on me," the Les Bleus head coach said as impatience grows for Mbappe's move to be announced in the Spanish capital.

    "They will decide when it will be time to make it official. As far as possible, I will adapt to the collective and the French team."

    Mbappe leaves Paris with 256 goals across his seven seasons, including 42 in the Champions League, as Luis Enrique prepares for life without the 25-year-old.

    Adding in 96 assists for the Ligue 1 champions, Mbappe's 352 goal involvements rank as the most for PSG this century – ahead of Edinson Cavani (236) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (210).

    "You don't think he's in good shape... He only scored 44 goals in the season, he could have done better," a teasing Deschamps added.

    "He played in a Coupe de France final, he's active."

    Though Mbappe remains the focus of European football interest, Deschamps has no intention to treat the attacker any different to his France team-mates.

    "The context in the French team is different, I'm not going to pay more attention to him in relation to that aspect," the veteran boss continued.

    "But I understand that from the outside, the media aspect in relation to [the club's] decisions and the announcement, it takes up a lot of time."

    Deschamps will hope his France team can focus solely on their upcoming Euro 2024 campaign soon, which they start against Austria on June 17.

    The Les Bleus manager wants to have qualification sealed by defeating Austria and Netherlands, before a final group-stage meeting with Poland.

    "I am a positive person, and I am driven by the idea that every day that goes by brings us closer to a positive response," he said. "Everything will be done to make sure things go as smoothly as possible."

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