Mbappe looking to Ronaldo, not Messi, for inspiration

By Sports Desk January 22, 2020

Kylian Mbappe has suggested he cannot replicate what Lionel Messi has achieved at Barcelona and will instead look to Cristiano Ronaldo for inspiration.

Since bursting onto the scene with Monaco in 2016, a move to Paris Saint-Germain and a charge to World Cup glory with France has made the 21-year-old one of the leading lights in football.

However, when it comes to choosing between Messi and Ronaldo on who to model his career path on, Mbappe acknowledged his switch from Monaco to PSG means he cannot follow in the footsteps of Barca's six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"It's too late for me to carve out a career like Messi's, I would have had to stay at Monaco," Mbappe told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Without taking anything away from Messi, now I have to draw on Cristiano's career for inspiration.

"If you're French, obviously you would have grown up with [Zinedine] Zidane as your idol. After that, it was Cristiano, who I have been fortunate enough to have faced as an opponent, at club level and with the national team.

"I also love Brazilian players like Pele, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Kaka. And to the young players who look up to me, I'd like to send them a message from someone who believed in their dream, always giving the best they had to give, trying to push their own limits to be able to make a mark in sport."

Mbappe also believes Ronaldo gives Juventus an edge in the Champions League, a competition the Portugal captain has won five times, making the Serie A giants a favourite.

"Juventus are a strong side - they've shown that in the finals they've played during the past few seasons," said Mbappe, who has scored 21 goals in all competitions for PSG this term.

"They have always lacked something to give them the edge and now they have that in Cristiano. He's a player who makes you win major trophies.

"This year Juventus are among the favourites – along with the usual suspects – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Liverpool."

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    Mehdi Taremi and Moussa Marega caught Juve cold at the start of each half at Estadio do Dragao last month.

    Federico Chiesa reduced the arrears late on, although the fact that was the first time Porto had conceded in six Champions League matches underlined the scale of the task still to come in Turin on Tuesday.

    "The result is open, we will have to be clever in knowing how to manage the match to obtain qualification," Pirlo told a pre-match news conference.

    "It is a decisive match for our Champions League campaign."

     "We will have to play a very technical game, because we will face a very compact team, with two very narrow lines and with little space and little time to think.

    "It will take technique and patience."

    Juventus' domestic dominance over the past decade has not translated onto the European stage, with final defeats in 2015 and 2017 to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively proving tough to take.

    Pirlo made his final Juve appearance as a player in the former showpiece, as goals from Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez and Neymar saw Barca run out 3-1 winners in Berlin.

    "We know the importance and the beauty of playing in the Champions League," he said.

    "When you can play these games there is a totally different energy, but it must be faced just like all other important games."

    Juventus captain Leonardo Bonucci echoed his boss' sentiments.

    "We must be careful not to get caught up in the desire to score immediately at all costs," he said.

    "We expect a Porto side that will come here to play, not to defend."

    The Serie A champions would be even more up against it had Chiesa not continued an impressive individual season by getting on the scoresheet.

    Italy winger Chiesa has scored nine goals and chipped in with seven assists across all competitions this season.

    His 40 chances created are second only to Alvaro Morata (44) among Juventus' forwards, while his 19.6 per cent shot conversion rate is slightly better than Cristiano Ronaldo's (18.2), even though the five-time Ballon d'Or winner is once again riding high with 27 goals in the 2020-21 campaign.

    "He doesn't allow himself to be influenced by pressure, he is very genuine and spontaneous, and quickly understood what it means to wear this shirt," Bonucci said of the 23-year-old Chiesa. "He's giving us so much."

    Bonucci could be joined in defence by his long-time colleague Giorgio Chiellini, who has recovered from a calf problem to slightly mitigate Mathijis de Ligt's absence due to muscular injuries.

    Pirlo expects Weston McKinnie to be involved despite managing a hip problem, although the USA international will not be fit enough for the entire match.

  • Pochettino: PSG will fight to the death to win the Champions League Pochettino: PSG will fight to the death to win the Champions League

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    Indeed, no team in the history of the competition has failed to progress from a knockout tie over two legs after winning the first leg by a margin of three goals away from home. 

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    PSG were beaten in last year's final by Bayern Munich – Kingsley Coman scoring the only goal in a slender win for the Bundesliga side – but Pochettino insisted the painful memories of that defeat will not derail them this term. 

    "Clearly, it is the ambition of the club to win [the competition]," he told the LFP.  

    "There are a lot of other teams who want to win it; it's not that easy. We are aware of our responsibility, and we will fight to the death to achieve it.

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    "Staying focused on the past limits your future possibilities. We come with new energy. We think that we have the potential to remain in contention in the Champions League. 

    "In football, conviction brings you closer to winning."

    Pochettino was in charge of Barca's city rivals Espanyol between 2009 and 2012, although he said that does not provide him with any extra impetus to knock them out of the competition. 

    "I am not a fan of Espanyol who goes beyond the limits," he added. "Winning in Barcelona has a special flavor.

    "But we want to win for PSG, for our players, for the fans, and finally, for ourselves."

    The French giants eased to a 3-0 victory over Brest in the last 32 of the Coupe de France on Saturday to make it 12 wins, one draw and two defeats in Pochettino's first two months in charge after replacing Thomas Tuchel. 

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    "Coming to training every morning, being with the players, the staff, trying to improve, that's what motivates me," he said. "Maybe I even have more motivation to go to the training centre than to be in competition. 

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    England winger Sancho scored the winner in Dortmund's DFB-Pokal victory at Borussia Monchengladbach last Tuesday, yet he had to be substituted with a muscle injury just two minutes later.

    The 20-year-old subsequently missed Saturday's Klassiker at Bayern Munich, where BVB threw away an early two-goal lead to lose 4-2.

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    The coach added: "[Sancho] is a subject in every press conference, so you know his importance. He is one of the most exceptional players in the world, especially in his age group.

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    Dortmund hold a 3-2 lead and have home advantage for the second leg, with Sancho having created two chances, including an assist, for Haaland in Seville.

    Haaland scored twice in that match and added another brace against Bayern, but he later departed with a cut to his ankle.

    Terzic confirmed the striker has since taken part in training, however, and he is expected to feature this week.

    "[Haaland] got a knock, but it looks good that he can play," the coach said. "Tomorrow we will have another unit in which he will play."

    Haaland has 10 Champions League goals in just seven games for Dortmund, becoming the fastest player to this mark at any one club as he broke Roy Makaay's 10-match record for Bayern.

    His overall tally in the competition stands at 18 from just 13 outings, meaning he could set a staggering new 20-goal benchmark with a brace on Tuesday. Harry Kane was previously quickest to that total in 24 games.

    Two more goals would also make Haaland the first player ever to net a double in four consecutive Champions League appearances.

    His strikes last time out against Sevilla made him the fifth man to achieve three in a row.

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