Kylian Mbappe tipped Barcelona's Lionel Messi to win the Ballon d'Or and admitted that he has suffered from bouts of self-doubt during an injury-plagued year at Paris Saint-Germain.

France international Mbappe was fourth in the shortlist for the 2018 Ballon d'Or and won the Kopa Trophy, presented to the best-performing player under the age of 21.

After scoring 33 goals in 29 Ligue 1 appearances for the French champions in 2018-19, Mbappe has been restricted to just five starts this term.

He has nevertheless scored five league goals but backed the legendary Messi to collect the gong for world's best player for a sixth time, telling Spiegel: "In individual terms he [Messi] was the best this year."

"Sometimes I'm worried," Mbappe continued. "I'm scared, if you fail as a player, you have doubts, and when you lose in a big match, the question is, is this the end of it? It was nice, but now it's over!

"But it does not last long, because the good thing about football is that you do not have much time to think."

Mbappe has scored nine goals in 12 games across all competitions in 2019-20 despite spending much of the campaign sidelined by hamstring, thigh and adductor problems.

He said another issue affecting him at PSG is the language barrier between him and German coach Thomas Tuchel, but said the 46-year-old makes certain words loud and clear.

"Unfortunately, I do not know nice words in German," said Mbappe.

"Just swear words like s***, my trainer is German and he always says that when something bugs him: s***, s***!"

Neymar had a "bad performance" on his return for Paris Saint-Germain, according to coach Thomas Tuchel, who nonetheless defended the fit-again forward.

The Brazil star had been out of action for a month with an injury sustained on international duty but started for PSG at home to Lille in Ligue 1 on Friday.

Neymar had a hand in PSG's second goal in a 2-0 win that moved the champions 11 points clear at the top of the table.

However, in his 65 minutes on the pitch, he failed to record a single shot or key pass and completed only 63.9 per cent of his passes on an underwhelming return to action.

Tuchel, though, was not expecting a top performance given his time on the sidelines.

"No, I'm not worried by his bad performance," Tuchel told reporters of Neymar's display. "I do not know if it's normal. 

"I did not expect much from him because he missed six weeks. It's a lot for someone like him, who needs pace for everything he does. 

"He missed precision today, timing. But it's like that. He had to play a few minutes."

Neymar was replaced by Kylian Mbappe and went straight down the tunnel rather than watch the rest of the game from the bench.

"It's normal. Many players enter the locker room directly," was Tuchel's view. 

"I did not see that because I was focused on the game, changing tactics. 

"We have to talk about this thing internally. But we are not going to talk about it too much now."

Goals from Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria in the first half saw PSG to a routine victory at Parc des Princes.

"They are fit, and strong together," Tuchel said of the Argentina duo. "Both stayed with us during the [international] break.

"That's good because you can manage them and keep them fresh. Both are decisive and score goals. And they work for the team and it makes a huge difference for us."

Neymar returned for Paris Saint-Germain as a comfortable 2-0 home win over Lille moved the Ligue 1 champions 11 points clear at the top of the table.

The Brazil star had been out of action for a month due to injury but was fit enough to start at Parc des Princes on Friday, though fellow forward Kylian Mbappe, who has been ill, was only deemed ready for the bench.

Mbappe's initial absence did not hurt PSG as on-loan striker Mauro Icardi hit his ninth goal in his past eight appearances to put his side in front.

Angel Di Maria struck the second before half-time and Mbappe came off the bench to make it a good day for coach Thomas Tuchel ahead of Tuesday's Champions League trip to Real Madrid.

Icardi continued his hot streak with the opening goal for PSG in the 17th minute, the Argentina attacker arriving at the back post to convert Idrissa Gueye's left-wing cross.

PSG had not hit top gear but doubled their advantage before the half-time break.

When Neymar was tackled the ball ran loose for Julian Draxler to trick his way into space and free Di Maria in the left channel to beat Mike Maignan with a trademark left-foot curler.

Though Keylor Navas had to save well from Luiz Araujo, such was PSG's comfort that Neymar was able to make way for Mbappe's return midway through the second half.

Lille substitute Loic Remy had a chance to set up a grandstand finish but scuffed a tame finish at Navas, while Yusuf Yazici curled wide from a promising position in the closing stages.

What does it mean? Another title looks certain for PSG

Despite already having lost three times in the league this season, PSG are 11 points clear and seemingly cruising to another Ligue 1 crown. The challenge for Tuchel will be maintaining momentum and intensity for key Champions League clashes still to come.

Lille lost vital members of their coaching staff to Tottenham after Jose Mourinho's appointment this week and Christophe Galtier's side, who have only won once in the league since September, face a battle to secure Champions League football.

Gueye adds to clean sheet collection

PSG's array of attacking talent is the envy of clubs from all over the world but Gueye, who joined from Everton ahead of the 2018-19 season, may prove their most important signing in some time.

The Senegal midfielder has now played nine Ligue 1 matches for his new club and they have won eight of them, conceding just three times. As well as providing protection for PSG's defence, he created the opening goal for Icardi with a fine low cross.

Draxler miss not punished by Lille

PSG should have won by a greater margin but Draxler, who had otherwise been impressive, wasted a superb chance to add to their lead early in the second half after being set up by Icardi.

Substitute Edinson Cavani, who replaced Icardi, was also profligate in the last minute.

What's next?

PSG are already through to the next round of the Champions League but can secure top spot by avoiding defeat away to Real Madrid on Tuesday, with Tuchel's side back in domestic action next Sunday when they go to Monaco.

Lille are at home to Ajax on Wednesday then host Dijon in the league three days later.

Neymar is back in the Paris Saint-Germain side to face Lille in Ligue 1 on Friday after recovering from injury.

The Brazil forward has been out of action for a month after sustaining a hamstring injury while on international duty.

But PSG coach Thomas Tuchel indicated in a pre-match news conference that Neymar was ready to return and he is in the XI to take on fifth-placed Lille.

Kylian Mbappe has been passed fit to start in attack with Neymar after recovering from illness.

Keylor Navas is back in goal for the Ligue 1 champions, replacing Sergio Rico, after the Costa Rica international missed PSG's win at Brest last due to a groin injury.

Christophe Galtier's side have won just one of their last six Ligue 1 games while PSG are unbeaten in their 19 home Ligue 1 matches against Lille.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are back in the Paris Saint-Germain squad to face Lille in Ligue 1 on Friday.

Both of Thomas Tuchel's star forwards have endured injury interrupted campaigns so far.

Neymar missed the start of the season as he completed his rehabilitation from ankle ligament damage but returned in style with four goals in five Ligue 1 outings.

A hamstring injury sustained while on duty with Brazil last month left him back on the sidelines but Tuchel told reporters on Thursday the world's most expensive footballer had resumed training.

Mbappe has nine goals in 11 games across all competitions in 2019-20 despite being compromised by hamstring, thigh and adductor problems, before illness placed his participation in the game at the Parc des Princes in doubt.

The attacking duo return in time for a pivotal week, with trips to Real Madrid and Monaco on the horizon.

PSG are eight points clear of Marseille at the top of Ligue 1 table and they are five points better off than Madrid thanks to a perfect record from four Champions League group matches to date.

Right-back Thomas Meunier is back from a hamstring injury but midfielders Marco Verratti (knee) and Ander Herrera (thigh) remain among the absentees.

Luis Suarez says when Gerard Pique speaks "sometimes you have to take everything with tweezers" after the defender said Barcelona stars were ready to alter their salaries to accommodate the return of Neymar.

Brazil star Neymar was heavily linked with a switch back to Camp Nou just two seasons after making a record-breaking €222million move to Paris Saint-Germain.

However, Barca were unable to strike an agreement with PSG despite the best efforts of LaLiga's champions.

Centre-back Pique said last month: "We didn't stump up money.

"What we said to the president was whether we could change our contracts because we knew there was a Financial Fair Play issue... so we said to the president, rather than earn something in year one, we could earn it in year two or three or four."

Star forward Suarez, who formed a devastating trio with Lionel Messi and Neymar at Barca, insists the players had no involvement with the talks and believes not everything Pique said should be taken at face value.

"When Geri speaks, sometimes you have to take everything with tweezers," Uruguayan Suarez told Sport.

"He has a lot of work and a lot of experience in making statements. In this case he knows and is aware that the players were totally out in the case of Ney.

"We were willing to welcome him or any player who wants to come, but always oblivious to the case."

Suarez also insisted everything is well with close-season signing Antoine Griezmann and his integration with Barcelona's squad.

It was reported captain Messi objected to the signing of the former Atletico Madrid forward due to his desire for Neymar to return, although the Argentinian branded such suggestions as a "lie".

Suarez said: "[His integration has been] spectacular, sometimes things are misunderstood. Both Leo and I and Geri himself welcomed him a year earlier, said he was a great player and was one of the best in the world.

"He came from being world champion and we already praised him. Then we didn't know what was going to happen to him, we weren't sure he was coming this year.

"We treat him as one more. It is also true that some have more affinity with some partners than others; in his case he gets along very well with the French players."

VAR controversy, Leicester City's swashbuckling style, Liverpool's unrelenting charge to the title – these are all among the most prominent themes of the opening months of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

But arguably trumping all of them in terms of column inches has been Chelsea's use of young players, with Frank Lampard's return to the club as head coach coinciding with a new-found desire to bring youngsters into the first-team.

Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Christian Pulisic have all featured regularly, while Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James have recently returned from serious injuries.

Eden Hazard, Graeme Le Saux, Sean Dyche, Roy Hodgson and Petr Cech are just a few of the army of people to lavish Chelsea and Lampard with praise for this philosophy.

Although it is difficult not to be cynical of Lampard's insistence that he would have had the same approach even if Chelsea were not banned from signing new players, the fact remains they are giving young players a chance.

But how does their use of under-23 players compare to the rest of the teams in Europe's top five leagues?

PREMIER LEAGUE

It might surprise supporters to learn that among Premier League clubs, Chelsea don't lead the way for appearances (60), minutes (4,164) or assists (8) for players who were under 23 on matchday.

Manchester United have racked up the highest number of matches for players younger than 23 (84), one more than Leicester. The next highest is Bournemouth (67), while Arsenal and Norwich City are also ahead of Chelsea.

As such, United have given 5,801 minutes of Premier League football to young players, though Leicester lead the way with 6,164 and are also on top in terms of assists (15).

Chelsea's 20 goals from qualifying players is a division high, however, four more than United. Leicester are the third and final side to reach double figures.

And the Blues' average starting XI age of 25 years and 115 days is among the youngest, though Bournemouth are ahead on that front (25y 88d).

LALIGA

In Spain's top flight, only Real Sociedad (84) and Real Mallorca (68) have given more matches to young players than Chelsea. They're also the only clubs to accumulate more minutes played by youngsters than the Blues (5,341 and 5,944, respectively).

La Real also top the charts for goals (10), assists (8) and average starting XI age (25y 235d) in Spain, though none of those records better Chelsea's.

Therefore, it's fair to say LaLiga, renowned for its development of young players, is lagging behind Premier League in that regard at the moment.

SERIE A

Chelsea's 60 appearances by young players would put them fourth on those terms in Serie A, with Fiorentina (79), Genoa and AC Milan (both 72) out in front.

Those three have also given more minutes to under-23s, with Fiorentina (5,837) setting the bar again.

Genoa have had 11 goals set up by under-23 players, three more than Chelsea, while Milan's average starting XI age (24y 203d) is much lower than Lampard's men.

But in each of those two parameters, Chelsea would be second in the chart. They would lead for goals from under-23s, with Fiorentina top in Italy on 10.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig (80), Mainz, Schalke (both 70) and Borussia Monchengladbach (63) have been the most open to playing under-23s in the Bundesliga

Similarly, all four clubs have seen those players feature in more than 4,500 minutes this season – Leipzig unsurprisingly leading the way with 5,259.

Leipzig are also Chelsea's closest challengers in terms of goals. Their record of 17 may be slightly less than the Blues, but their 11-assist haul - level with Gladbach - takes them to 28 involvements, exactly the same as Lampard's side.

Julian Nagelsmann's Leipzig are also the youngest side in the Bundesliga, with their starting XI's average age just 24 years and 340 days. Mainz (25y 38d) are the only other top-flight German club to beat Chelsea in this regard.

LIGUE 1

France's Ligue 1 is by far the most accessible of the five major leagues for young players, with a total of 1,360 appearances from under-23 players across the 20 clubs, an average of 68 per team.

In comparison, the Premier League (871) averages 43.55 appearances per club and the Bundesliga's 18 sides afford under-23s 45.28 outings (815 total).

Nice make up the biggest share of the Ligue 1 appearances with a massive 121, but Lille (116), Lyon (99), Reims (96), Nimes (83), Toulouse (82), Rennes, Bordeaux (both 75), Metz (74), Monaco, Dijon (both 65) and Strasbourg (62) have all allowed youngsters to play more than 60 matches.

Of course, a key element of this is the lack of funds at many of these clubs and French football in general with the exception of Paris Saint-Germain, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, have entrusted the fewest games (30) to under-23 players in the division.

Nevertheless, only Nice (24y 41d), Lille (24y 111d) and Lyon (24y 288d) have a younger starting line-up on average than Lampard's Chelsea.

Real Madrid star Eden Hazard says he has rejected multiple offers from Paris Saint-Germain and would never sign for the Ligue 1 champions.

The Belgium international claims he has always made it clear he would only return to France's top flight to play for former club Lille, the team he left in 2012 to join Chelsea.

PSG were linked with a move for Hazard before the completed a switch to Madrid this year for a reported €100million fee.

"No, never," he told L'Equipe when asked if he would ever join PSG.

"They've often wanted to sign me. I didn't want to come back to Ligue 1 and with another club to Lille.

"I always told them no. In my head, it was clear.

"They're a club who can help you win the Champions League, but they were not in my plans. If I come back to Ligue 1, it will be with Lille."

Hazard has struggled to make a significant impact in Spain since arriving from Chelsea in June.

The 28-year-old has scored only once in eight appearances in all competitions and has been accused in some quarters of being overweight.

Hazard this week denied those suggestions, telling Sky Sports: "For the last month, I've been in good condition with no injuries.

"I'm in good shape. When I'm on the pitch I will always try to do my best, with Real Madrid or Belgium. I just want to keep this momentum."

Madrid host Real Sociedad in LaLiga on Saturday before they face PSG in the Champions League at the Santiago Bernabeu next Tuesday.

Neymar is ready to return to action for Paris Saint-Germain against Lille on Saturday, but the Ligue 1 champions could be without Kylian Mbappe.

The Brazil superstar has not featured for his club since sustaining a hamstring injury during the October international break, continuing a tale of fitness woe that has stained his time at the Parc des Princes.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference, head coach Thomas Tuchel confirmed Neymar would be available for a mouth-watering week of fixtures, with trips to Real Madrid and Monaco coming after Lille's visit to the French capital.

"Neymar feels good," Tuchel said. "He has trained well and will be in the group for tomorrow's match, but he will not be able to play 90 minutes.

"He will bring us quality and decisive things. When he is with us, we are super dangerous. That is necessary if we want to continue to win

"Lille, Real Madrid and Monaco represent three challenging games for us."

Mbappe has often stepped up in Neymar's absence, but the France forward has been laid low by illness having already suffered hamstring, thigh and groin setbacks this term.

"He had a fever, he has to start training today, we have to wait," said Tuchel, who will be without midfield duo Marco Verratti (knee) and Ander Herrera (thigh).

Neymar's rehabilitation took in a trip to watch the Davis Cup in Madrid this week, something which neither delighted nor angered his boss.

"What can I do? I'm not his father, nor the police. I am just his coach," Tuchel added.

"He trained well. Did I enjoy his trip to Madrid? No. But he was very professional during those two weeks.

"He did more than others, working with the group and also individually. If all goes well, he can play [against Lille]. Tomorrow we will decide".

With Barcelona and Real Madrid keen to strengthen their defences, one Inter star is attracting interest.

Milan Skriniar is reportedly wanted by LaLiga champions Barca and Spanish rivals Madrid.

Will Inter be able to retain the centre-back?

 

TOP STORY – SKRINIAR WANTED BY LALIGA GIANTS

Barcelona and Real Madrid have set their sights on Inter defender Skriniar, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Skriniar – contracted to Inter until June 2023 – has established himself as one of the world's best defenders since moving to Milan from Sampdoria in 2017.

The likes of Manchester City and Manchester United have also been linked to the 24-year-old Slovakia international.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are desperate to strengthen their squad and ESPN claims the Premier League side have an eight-man shortlist, which includes Leicester City's James Maddison, Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho, Salzburg's goalscoring machine Erling Haaland, West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, Bournemouth's Callum Wilson, Lyon forward Moussa Dembele, as well as Aston Villa pair Jack Grealish and John McGinn.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Mirror says United are monitoring Sporting CP's Matheus Pereira, who is on loan at Championship outfit West Brom. It comes as The Sun reports the Red Devils could sign Gareth Bale and send Paul Pogba to Real Madrid.

- Bild says Borussia Monchengladbach have no plans to sell midfielder Denis Zakaria in January. Zakaria has reportedly attracted interest from United, Bayern Munich, Dortmund and others.

Manchester City are circling Inter midfielder Stefano Sensi, according to Calciomercato. Sensi moved to Inter on loan from Serie A side Sassuolo and the 24-year-old has starred at San Siro.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are looking at Paris Saint-Germain's Thomas Meunier and Chelsea full-back Emerson Palmieri amid their injury crisis in Turin.

- Brescia sensation and Italy international Sandro Tonali is being chased by Serie A champions Juve and LaLiga side Atletico Madrid, reports Corriere di Torino.

Marco Giampaolo needed more time to have a genuine chance of implementing his plans for AC Milan, according to assistant coach Daniele Bonera.

Milan sacked Giampaolo following a 2-1 win over Genoa in October, his seventh match in charge.

The former Sampdoria boss presided over three victories and four defeats before the Rossoneri rushed to appoint Stefano Pioli – a move that, so far, has failed to lead to an upturn in the team's fortunes.

Pioli has led the team to four points from five games since his arrival, with their solitary triumph coming at home to lowly SPAL.

"In a few months, two coaches arrived with different working methods, two ways of thinking on a defensive level," Bonera, an assistant under both coaches, told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"With Giampaolo, we thought more about the ball. With Pioli, we are more practical and we work on the positioning of players.

"Giampaolo did not have the time he needed, but at a club like Milan there is never much time."

Asked about the players, Bonera said: "I see guys who are very committed. Many are really young, in their twenties. It takes time.

"We need patience, which is a rare commodity in football. We are trying to do better every day. I've never seen any of the players holding back because of fatigue."

Milan's problems could grow further if Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain launch a January bid to sign goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, as has been rumoured in recent days.

Bonera, who made over 150 Serie A appearances for Milan during his nine-year spell with the club as a player, recommends the 20-year-old Donnarumma remains with his boyhood club.

"As a fan and someone in love with Milan, I would recommend he stay with us," Bonera said.

"But he has staff and family who advise him."

Barcelona will always be interested in Neymar but it is financially difficult to re-sign him, the club's sporting director Eric Abidal has admitted.

Neymar attempted to secure a move back to Camp Nou in the close season, two years after leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in a deal that made him the most expensive player in history.

LaLiga champions Barca held talks with PSG but were unable to meet the Ligue 1 side's demands.

Lionel Messi suggested some at the Catalan club did not want Neymar to return, though it appears he will remain a target.

"A top player, who has a Barca philosophy and who is performing at a high level, will always be an option," Abidal told Mundo Deportivo.

"We can make decisions on the sporting level but the whole financial issue, there are things that you can do and others you cannot. The future will tell us.

"I will not say it would be option number one, because the season is very long, but clearly it can be an option."

Barca reignited their interest in Neymar amid a desire to find a long-term successor to ageing striker Luis Suarez.

The search is said to have led them to highly rated Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

Asked about the 22-year-old, Abidal said: "He is a complete player. I think he is performing at a great level. He is a player we know.

"There are other players who also have a lot of quality... but I don't pay much attention to the player who plays every weekend, I look at others."

Barca did boost their attacking options with the addition of Antoine Griezmann in July and Abidal said Suarez had been briefed on the club's intentions to pursue another competitor for his starting spot.

"I am transparent with the players," the Frenchman said. "Luis can tell you, because last year I already told him that it was going to be like that, that we were going to look for an offensive player.

"He accepted it because he wants the best for the team. Today, I can tell you that there is no priority. The planning will always be done, no matter the position on the field, the only change will be the decision."

Could Jose Mourinho find a new home at a third Premier League club?

According to one report, the ex-Chelsea and Manchester United manager is keeping a close eye on Tottenham and the uncertainty that lingers over Mauricio Pochettino's future.

The potential of a job opening in north London might even lead to him turning down a big-name former employer.

 

TOP STORY – MOURINHO SETS SIGHTS ON SPURS

Jose Mourinho has told friends he is "confident" of being offered a return to Real Madrid but may hold out for the Tottenham job, according to The Sun.

Zinedine Zidane is in his second stint in charge of Madrid, while Mauricio Pochettino has spent more than five years at the Spurs helm.

The report suggests it is the latter position that Mourinho covets more, meaning he "would not necessarily accept" another spell in the Spanish capital.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United could launch a January move for Gareth Bale, reports The Sun. According to the newspaper, Real Madrid know of United's interest in Wales winger Bale and would be happy to let him leave the Santiago Bernabeu, providing they can do a deal that involves Paul Pogba moving in the other direction.

- Spanish outlet ElDesmarque reports news that could complicate any Bale-Pogba exchange, stating that although Madrid are indeed keen on France playmaker Pogba, so too are the player's former club Juventus, with Cristiano Ronaldo said to be supportive.

Paris Saint-Germain are rumoured to be United's strongest rivals for Jadon Sancho and the Ligue 1 side could make a surprise play for another England international. The Mirror claims PSG are interested in poaching Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana on a free transfer. His contract is due to expire in 2020.

- Premier League champions Manchester City will look to sign Kingsley Coman from Bayern Munich if Leroy Sane agrees on a move to the Bundesliga giants, according to Sky Sports. Coman, 23, joined Bayern from Juve in 2015, initially on loan.

- Mainz are seeking a new head coach and the Bundesliga club are reported to be targeting former Cologne boss Achim Beierlorzer. Kicker reports Mainz want a new face in charge by early next week, and Beierlorzer is said to be in the frame. The club sit in the relegation zone after eight defeats in 11 games this term. Beierlorzer would be making a rapid return to bench duty if he lands the job, having left Cologne on November 9.

Neymar, Thomas Meunier, Keylor Navas and Marco Verratti are all expected back in Paris Saint-Germain training next week following injuries.

PSG had previously announced Neymar was due to resume training this week, having been out since the previous international break with a hamstring injury.

He is instead now set to return in the coming days, alongside Thomas Meunier, who has also been dealing with a hamstring issue.

Navas should likewise be back among the squad in the next seven days as he recovers from a thigh injury which forced him out of last weekend's win at Brest.

The former Real Madrid man had crucially saved a penalty against Club Brugge in the Champions League three days earlier.

Verratti has had an injury to the back of his right knee, keeping him out of international action for Italy, but is hoping to train by the end of next week.

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