Kylian Mbappe is the "future of football" as Real Madrid fight to make him the next Galactico signing after Victor Sanchez compared the Paris Saint-Germain star to former team-mate Lionel Messi.

PSG lured Messi to the French capital after his contract expired at Barcelona, but the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's arrival has not changed Mbappe's stance, with the Frenchman eyeing an exit.

Long tipped to join Madrid, the LaLiga giants reportedly made a €160million offer for Mbappe – who is out of contract at the end of the season – but PSG are holding out for at least €220m.

Sanchez played alongside Messi at Barca, where he emerged from the club's youth system in 2005 and made his first-team debut in 2008 before joining and captaining rivals Espanyol.

The Spanish midfielder, now playing for Western United in Australia's A-League, compared Messi with his current PSG team-mate Mbappe, highlighting the growing need for speed in football.

"[Mbappe and Messi] are different," Sanchez told Stats Perform.

"It's true that football is changing towards a more physical concept, so much about quality. I believe that Messi, [Diego] Maradona, Ronaldinho were quality players in terms of having the ball. And Mbappe is the definition of where the football is going to; the new direction of football.

"A much more electric player, fast. So similar to what is emerging – Ansu Fati, for instance.

"Players with speed like [Erling] Haaland, who is a good player, but not as good as Messi technically.

"The future of football is more physical, more fast, quicker, where teams like France or Belgium or Bayern Munich with strong players, it is what will reign in football in a few years."

Mbappe has scored 133 goals and provided 58 assists across 174 games over four years at PSG since arriving from Monaco.

The 22-year-old's 191 goal involvements since his debut rank third among players in Europe's top five leagues in that time, behind Messi (236) and Bayern Munich superstar Robert Lewandowski (213).

Mbappe was on target as Mauricio Pochettino's PSG overcame Brest 4-2 in Ligue 1 last week.

PSG's Mbappe scored his fourth Ligue 1 headed goal, his first with for club and his first since March 2017 with Monaco at Caen.

Mbappe has been decisive in eight consecutive Ligue 1 games (eight goals, three assists), his second-best run in the top-flight, behind February-November 2020 (10).

Will Kylian Mbappe join Real Madrid before the transfer window shuts?

It has been confirmed that Mbappe wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain, despite Lionel Messi's arrival.

Madrid must now strike an agreement with PSG or wait to sign the France international on a free transfer.

 

TOP STORY – PSG NAME MBAPPE PRICE

Paris Saint-Germain want €220million for wantaway Real Madrid target Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Madrid reportedly offered €160m for Mbappe, who is out of contract at the end of 2021-22, as PSG sporting director Leonardo confirmed the Frenchman's desire to leave Paris on Wednesday.

PSG are said to named their price, with RMC claiming Madrid will make an improved offer for Mbappe.

Premier League giants Liverpool and Manchester United have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky Italia's Gianluca Di Marzio says Manchester City are offering Cristiano Ronaldo a two-year deal, though the Premier League holders are unwilling to pay Juventus a transfer fee. There has been talk of Gabriel Jesus or Bernardo Silva being included in a possible deal to sign Ronaldo. It comes after City failed to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham, while Ronaldo has been linked with former club United as well as PSG and Madrid.

Chelsea have readied their final bid for Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, per Fabrizio Romano. The Champions League holders are also trying to sign Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez – a target for rivals United.

Antonio Conte is one of the top choices to replace Mikel Arteta if Arsenal sack their manager, according to the Independent. Conte is without a club after guiding Inter to the Scudetto in 2020-21.

- Di Marzio claims Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are interested in Brest midfielder Romain Faivre, who is in talks with Milan.

Lazio are pushing to sign Eintracht Frankfurt star Filip Kostic as Joaquin Correa nears a switch to Inter, reports Calciomercato.

Real Madrid would not have bid for Kylian Mbappe if they did not know he wanted to move, according to Leonardo, but that does not mean Paris Saint-Germain will sell.

Widespread reports on Tuesday revealed a €160million offer from Madrid for Mbappe, considered to be their top target.

A bid was confirmed by PSG sporting director Leonardo on Wednesday – although he would not detail the exact amount – and has been rejected by the Ligue 1 giants.

Leonardo discussed the potential transfer at length with the media, outlining his anger at Madrid's approach for a player who has scored 133 goals and provided 58 assists across 174 games over four years at PSG.

The club would clearly like to keep Mbappe, whose 191 goal involvements since his debut rank third among players in Europe's top five leagues in that time, behind new team-mate Lionel Messi (236) and Robert Lewandowski (213).

But the World Cup winner, whose contract expires next year, has his sights set on the Santiago Bernabeu.

Leonardo said: "This seems clear, doesn't it? If Real Madrid make an offer a week before the end of the [transfer] window, it is because the player wants to leave.

"If Kylian wants to speak out and say he doesn't want to leave, then he won't leave, because that's our wish.

"Real have talked with the family, the entourage, otherwise they would not have done so [made the bid]."

This late-window saga comes as a real blow to PSG, who had enjoyed surely the best close-season of all leading European clubs.

Messi followed Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum in heading to Paris. Mbappe has not yet featured alongside Messi, who could make his PSG bow this week.

"We cannot be happy with this situation, because we did something this summer, we have created a dream, we will not let anyone destroy it or position themselves above the club," Leonardo added.

"Kylian is at the centre of the project but not above it. We created a positive atmosphere, a desire, an emotion. That was our plan."

Neymar, like Messi, is yet to feature this term, with Mbappe holding the fort in their absence, weighing in with a team-high three goal involvements in three games.

Cristiano Ronaldo, said to be keen to leave Juventus, would appear to be one potential replacement if Mbappe did leave, but Leonardo has not given it any thought.

"We never thought of a plan without Kylian," he said.

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo has accused "disrespectful" Real Madrid of making an "illegal" approach in their pursuit of Kylian Mbappe.

The talismanic forward has reportedly told PSG it is his dream to play for the Spanish giants.

Los Blancos are said to have made a £137million bid to sign the 22-year-old France forward, who has less than a year remaining on his contract at Parc des Princes.

Mbappe has scored 133 goals and provided 63 assists in 174 appearances for PSG since his move from Monaco, winning three Ligue 1 titles.

 

Leonardo has pointed the finger at Madrid but insists that should the right offer be presented to the club, they will not stand in Mbappe's way.

"We verbally said no to Real Madrid," he said. "This is very far from what is considered to be a sufficient value – far from what we paid for the same player at 18 years old – especially since we will have to pay part of this sum to Monaco.

"The club's position has always been to keep and renew Kylian's contract. There have been several meetings in this regard, and that remains our objective. 

"We made a proposal to Kylian at the level of the other top players and we even did more recently. After that, if a player wants to leave, we're not going to hold him back. But he will leave on our terms. We do not close the door to anyone but we have not received a new offer.

"This proposal seven days from the end of the market looks like a strategy of Real Madrid to get a no from us, and then say that they tried everything to have the player free in less than a year.

"Real have had a disrespectful, incorrect and even illegal attitude since you don't have the right to contact a player directly. This is unacceptable."

Speculation has mounted over the future of Cristiano Ronaldo over the past few days.

Ronaldo was demoted to the bench for Juventus' opening Serie A fixture on Sunday.

Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted there was nothing sinister at play but rumours have swirled since.

TOP STORY - RONALDO TO MAKE PREMIER LEAGUE PUSH

Ronaldo wants to push for a Premier League move in the final week before the transfer window closes, according to L'Equipe.

The Portuguese former Manchester United forward wants to join English champions Manchester City, with the report mentioning Aymeric Laporte or Bernardo Silva being used in any deal.

Ronaldo is reportedly not keen to see out the final year of his Juventus contract, with speculation over a move intensifying this week.

Sky Sport Italia claims that Ronaldo has communicated his intentions to players at both Juve and City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid have submitted a €160million bid to sign Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, according to The Mail. The Parisians have rejected the offer for Mbappe, whose PSG contract runs out at the end of the 2021-22 season and he has refused to re-sign with the club.

- PSG will turn to Everton's Brazil international Richarlison as they look to replace Mbappe should he depart, claims Eurosport.

- Inter will complete a move for Joaquin Correa from Lazio on Thursday, with a deal to sign him on loan with an option to buy for €31m including bonuses, reports Sky Sport Italia.

- Sky Sports reports that Tottenham have held informal talks with Houssem Aouar's representatives as they look to sign the Lyon forward.

- Thomas Delaney's potential move from Borussia Dortmund to Sevilla looks to be on, with a breakthrough in negotiations and the player to fly to Spain, according to Sport1.

Real Madrid have made an opening €160million bid for Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe that has been rebuffed, according to reports.

The France international has spent the past four seasons at the Parc des Princes but is due to become a free agent at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

Mbappe is no closer to agreeing a new contract with the Ligue 1 giants, despite the recent high-profile addition of Lionel Messi to a star-studded attack that also includes Neymar.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi recently stressed PSG do not need to cash in on Mbappe, while Mauricio Pochettino last week suggested he expects the Frenchman to stay.

However, widespread reports from Spain and France on Tuesday indicate Madrid have now tested the Parisiens' resolve by tabling a big-money bid for the World Cup winner.

 

Reports in France claim PSG have rejected the offer, which would make it the third most expensive transfer ever, behind the €222m PSG paid Barcelona for Neymar and €180m handed over to sign Mbappe from Monaco in 2018 after a year on loan.

Mbappe has made 174 appearances for PSG in all competitions since arriving from Monaco in 2017, helping the club to 10 trophies, including three Ligue 1 crowns.

He has scored 133 goals since making his debut in September 2017, placing him behind Cristiano Ronaldo (144), Messi (162) and Robert Lewandowski (182) for goals in all competitions among players in Europe's top five leagues during that period.

The 22-year-old has assisted a further 58 goals for his team-mates, while only Lewandowski (39) has been directly involved in more goals in the Champions League than Mbappe's 37.

Could the Kylian Mbappe transfer saga be nearing a conclusion?

Long linked with Real Madrid, Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season.

Paris Saint-Germain's attempts to re-sign Mbappe have been fruitless up until this point and the Ligue 1 giants are reportedly willing to cash in.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE NEARING MADRID?

Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to accept an offer for Kylian Mbappe should one arrive from Real Madrid before the end of the transfer window, according to RMC.

PSG have been fighting to re-sign Mbappe, who is in the final year of his current deal in the French capital.

However, PSG have reportedly accepted defeat in their efforts to retain Mbappe beyond the 2021-22 season as Madrid look to lure the Frenchman to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Premier League pair Manchester United and Liverpool have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror writes United are prepared to offer cash plus a player-swap – believed to be Jesse Lingard – to sign West Ham's Declan Rice.

- Atletico Madrid are closing in on a deal to sign Hertha Berlin's Matheus Cunha, says Fabrizio Romano. LaLiga champions Atletico had been linked with Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic – also wanted by the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham, Inter and Arsenal – but have so far failed to reach an agreement.

- The Daily Telegraph reports Tottenham are preparing a £40million bid to reunite Nuno Espirito Santo with Wolves star Adama Traore.

Napoli are eyeing unwanted Barcelona midfielder Miralem Pjanic, per Correire dello Sport. Pjanic had looked set to return to Juventus.

- Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira will move to Fiorentina after turning down Eintracht Frankfurt, according to Romano.

Chelsea are continuing to eye Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, claims Romano. The Frenchman is ready to swap Seville for London after agreeing personal terms on a deal until June 2026.

- Inter are monitoring Torino star Andrea Belotti as they seek to replace Romelu Lukaku, says Calciomercato. The Serie A champions have also been linked to Lazio forward Joaquin Correa.

Thierry Henry hopes Kylian Mbappe remains at Paris Saint-Germain amid growing links with Real Madrid.

Mbappe has long been tipped to join Madrid and speculation is continuing to claim the LaLiga giants will try to prise the French star from PSG before the transfer window closes, while Manchester United and Liverpool have also been linked.

PSG forward Mbappe is in the final year of his contract in Paris, where the 2018 World Cup winner is no closer to re-signing despite the arrival of Lionel Messi.

French great Henry, who played for Monaco like Mbappe before starring for Arsenal and Barcelona, wants the 22-year-old to stay at PSG.

"I don't know what is happening with Kylian Mbappe," Henry said on Amazon. "We can always speculate and say a lot of things. Me, what I see is that he is still there, that he is training, he is walking, he is running and he is trying to create chances for his team-mates.

"He scores, I know that well. He is a player who is also honouring his contract, he is doing nothing bad and he is responding on the pitch, so be happy.

"Like I often say, with an exceptional player we are always looking for the little things wrong. I hope that he will stay at PSG, I hope that he will be good and we will see after for what the future will bring him because it is normal to evaluate things.

"But is he lacking in respect towards someone? No, I have not yet seen that. He is there, he is present and he is even playing well."

Mbappe was on target as Mauricio Pochettino's PSG overcame Brest 4-2 in Ligue 1 on Friday.

PSG's Mbappe scored his fourth Ligue 1 headed goal, his first with for club and his first since March 2017 with Monaco at Caen.

Mbappe has been decisive in eight consecutive Ligue 1 games (eight goals, three assists), his second-best run in the top-flight, behind February-November 2020 (10).

Lionel Messi is yet to play for Paris Saint-Germain this season, but has been called up to Argentina's squad for their World Cup qualifiers next month, with Paulo Dybala making a long-awaited return.

Having led Argentina to Copa America glory, Messi made the shock switch from Barcelona to Paris earlier in August, though he is yet to make his debut for Mauricio Pochettino's team.

The 34-year-old, along with fellow former Barca star Neymar, is expected to make his bow against Reims in PSG's final game before the international break.

Messi, along with club-mates Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, would then travel to South America for matches against Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia.

However, despite Pochettino having given his blessing for Messi to play for his country next month, this could result in the trio missing up to four of PSG's September fixtures.

Argentina and Brazil are both on the French government's 'red list' for travellers, meaning arrivals must quarantine for 10 days once they return to France, unless they have been fully vaccinated. It is unknown if the players in question have yet received both doses.

PSG face Clermont on the second weekend in September, with a tussle against Lyon following a week later. A 10-day quarantine period would mean Messi and team-mates would certainly miss those matches, as well as the opening round of the Champions League group stage, which is to be played on September 14 and 15, while an away trip to Metz in Ligue 1 could also come too soon.

Travel restrictions could well change in the coming weeks, though PSG will not be the only team fretting over possible mandatory quarantine for players in Lionel Scaloni's squad.

Premier League players Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia, both of Aston Villa, and Cristian Romero of Tottenham would have to isolate regardless of their vaccination status under the current travel restrictions imposed by the UK government.

Meanwhile, Juventus forward Dybala has earned a recall after almost two years out of the picture.

Dybala, who endured an injury hit 2020-21 but scored in Juve's 2-2 draw with Udinese on Sunday, last featured for Argentina in November 2019.

With Sergio Aguero and Mauro Icardi both unavailable due to injury, and Lautaro Martinez a doubt despite being included, Dybala has made the cut to round off Scaloni's attack.

Argentina squad in full:

Franco Armani (River Plate), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Juan Musso (Atalanta),Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal); Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Lisandro Martinez (Ajax), Lucas Martinez Quarta (Fiorentina), Nahuel Molina Lucero (Udinese), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Cristian Romero (Tottenham Hotspur), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax); Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Nicolas Dominguez (Bologna), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla), Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham Hotspur), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis); Julian Alvarez (River Plate), Emiliano Buendia (Aston Villa), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Joaquin Correa (Lazio), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain).

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma said he has not joined Paris Saint-Germain to sit on the bench, but will "stay humble" in his bid to oust Keylor Navas. 

Donnarumma left Milan upon the expiration of his contract at the end of June, subsequently joining Ligue 1 giants PSG on a free transfer.

The 22-year-old – who made his Milan debut at the age of 16 in 2015 – is one of five recruits PSG have made this transfer window, including Lionel Messi.

After making 30 Serie A appearances in 2015-16, Donnarumma missed just five league games for Milan over the past five campaigns, establishing himself as one of the world's best goalkeepers.

He only helped his reputation at Euro 2020, playing a starring role as Italy won the competition – indeed, Donnarumma made two saves in the penalty shoot-out victory over England in the final on July 11.

However, he has found himself starting the 2021-22 campaign behind Navas having been an unused substitute in the first game he was available for - a 4-2 win over for PSG over Brest last Friday.

"I came to Paris to play. PSG sought me and wanted me. And I wanted PSG,” Donnarumma told Canal Plus.

"I came here to play, so I will give my best to be a starter, but there must be competition. I am ready to play.

"I want to become one of the best goalkeepers in the world and in order to do that, it’s necessary to sacrifice and be humble. Being humble is the most important thing."

 

Donnarumma's switch to Paris has raised some questions given Costa Rica's Navas has shown himself a more-than-capable goalkeeper.

In Ligue 1 last term, excluding penalties and own goals, Navas let in 17 goals from an xGOT conceded total of 24.1, giving him a figure of 7.1 goals prevented.

Meanwhile, Donnarumma conceded 35 from an xGOT of 34.1, giving him a goals prevented figure of -0.9 in Serie A last season.

Navas might be feeling the heat, though, when he flapped at a relatively weak shot from Franck Honorat in the game against Brest when PSG were 2-0 up. 

Donnarumma insisted his rivalry with Navas, who has yet to keep a clean sheet in three Ligue 1 appearances this season, will be strictly a professional one and will not impact upon his relationship with his PSG team-mate.

"Competition doesn’t scare me. Keylor is a big goalkeeper, but I am here to play. The competition is good and can help us improve," Donnarumma added.

"There won’t be problems, Keylor is a great person, we are friends and there are no problems, competition is normal in big clubs."

Lionel Messi was the topic of plenty of speculation in recent weeks before inking a two-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain.

The 34-year-old left Barcelona as a free agent after two decades with the Catalan club, unable to stay despite wanting to continue his career there.

But rumours are swirling already about Messi's next move after PSG, even though he has yet to even make his debut for the Ligue 1 side.

 

TOP STORY - BECKHAM HOLDS MESSI TALKS

Inter Miami owner David Beckham has held talks with Messi about joining the MLS club after his PSG contract expires, reports The Mirror.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder has promised to bring a superstar player to the club, with links to Cristiano Ronaldo in the past.

According to the report, Messi purchased six luxury penthouse apartments in Miami a few weeks ago, adding fuel to the fire.


ROUND-UP

- Manchester City will need to up their bid for Harry Kane to Tottenham by £50million to convince Spurs to sell, reports The Mirror. City have reportedly tabled an improved bid since their £100m offer and are said to be willing to go as high as £120m.

- Newcastle are ready to make a move to sign Everton's Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez, according to fichajes.net.

- Milan are interested in a move for Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva for £45m (€52m) according to Star on Sunday.

- The Sun claims that Southampton are looking to complete a bargain deal for Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

Roma defender Alessandro Florenzi has joined Milan on a season-long loan.

Florenzi becomes Stefano Pioli's latest acquisition in a busy transfer window, with Milan confirming they have an option to sign the full-back on a permanent deal.

The 30-year-old had not featured for Roma since January 2020, spending time on loan at Valencia and then Paris Saint-Germain, where he played 21 times in Ligue 1 last term.

Despite spending the previous season at the Parc des Princes, only Daniel De Rossi (20,370) and Edin Dzeko (19,686) have played more minutes for Roma than Florenzi's 18,925 since his debut in May 2011.

In the same time period, only Radja Nainggolan (285), Lorenzo Pellegrini (296), Dzeko (312), Francesco Totti (366) and Miralem Pjanic (403) have created more chances for Roma than Florenzi, who tallied up 282.

Among defenders in Serie A, Alex Sandro (321) and Aleksandar Kolarov (295) are the only two to have created more than the full-back, who will be back plying his trade in Italy.

A part of Italy's successful Euro 2020 squad, Florenzi also has experience on the international stage, too.

He appeared twice for Roberto Mancini's side as they secured the trophy, including a brief cameo in the final against England at Wembley, to take his total to 45 caps since making his debut in 2012.

Milan get their Serie A campaign underway on Monday when they travel to Sampdoria.

The transfer window is not even closed but attention is already turning to next season.

Kylian Mbappe is into the final year of his Paris Saint-Germain contract, while Erling Haaland's Borussia Dortmund deal has clubs queuing up.

Manchester United are reportedly set to pursue both.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE, HAALAND FUTURE RED DEVILS?

Manchester United have made Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe a target for next season, according to ESPN.

Mbappe has long been tipped to join Real Madrid and Saturday's Marca and Diario AS claim the LaLiga giants are still trying to sign the PSG star before the end of the transfer window.

Liverpool have also previously been linked with Mbappe, but United are keeping tabs on his situation, with the Frenchman out of contract at the end of 2021-22.

French journalist Julien Laurens, meanwhile, also suggests next year could be the perfect time for United to prise Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland has no shortage of suitors, linked with Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich as his release clause comes into force at season's end.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail says City are willing to sell defender Aymeric Laporte for £60million (€69m). The Spain international is reportedly wanted by Juventus and Madrid.

Chelsea remain interested in Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde, per The Telegraph. The Blues have also been linked with Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez, who has also caught the attention of United and Liverpool.

- Diario AS says wantaway Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele is eyeing a switch to Madrid, Barca or Bayern.

Real Sociedad are tracking PSG star Pablo Sarabia, according to Le Parisien. Sevilla could also reportedly rival Sociedad for the Spain international.

- Sky Sport Italia reports Juve are set to meet with Paulo Dybala's agent to discuss a new contract.

Lionel Messi will not make his Paris Saint-Germain debut against Brest on Friday after being left out of the travelling squad.

Messi has been training this week alongside former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, but neither have made the group for PSG's third Ligue 1 match of the season.

The wait for free signing Messi's PSG bow will now extend at least until next week's trip to Reims, the club's final match before the first international break of the 2021-22 campaign.

Mauricio Pochettino has still been able to call upon a stronger, more experienced squad than in previous weeks, though.

Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma is included for the first time since his own free transfer from Milan, although he has competition from regular goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Club captain Marquinhos, midfielder Marco Verratti and creator Angel Di Maria are also all back involved again.

The wait is over. A week-and-a-half after joining Paris Saint-Germain, Lionel Messi could be set to make his debut against Brest on Friday.

Following his shock exit from Barcelona as a free agent, Messi became the Ligue 1 giants' fifth major signing of the transfer window, joining the superstars Mauricio Pochettino already had at his disposal.

Messi, alongside his former Barca star Neymar, has been training this week, and though Pochettino refused to confirm his squad during Thursday's news conference, it is expected the duo will play a part.

With Kylian Mbappe already back, here's how Pochettino could set out at Brest.

 

GK: Keylor Navas

Navas has been one of Europe's outstanding goalkeepers in recent seasons, ranking third for goals prevented (8.1, using expected goals on target data) in the top five leagues in 2020-21. Gianluigi Donnarumma – the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020 – did not leave boyhood club Milan just to sit on the bench and, at 22, represents the long-term option, but after only just returning to training, it is likely Pochettino will stick with the former Real Madrid goalkeeper for Friday's game, though the ex-Spurs boss did suggest Donnarumma may be available. 

RB: Achraf Hakimi

Alessandro Florenzi headed back to Roma at the end of his loan, but PSG identified just about the best replacement on the market. Over the previous two seasons, Robin Gosens (34) was the only defender with more goal involvements than Hakimi (30), who scored on his first Ligue 1 appearance.

CB: Marquinhos

PSG won 72.5 per cent of the games Marquinhos played last season in all competitions, conceding 0.7 goals on average. Those numbers altered significantly in his absence, with a winning percentage of 52.9 while shipping 1.1 goals per game. Even with the club's superstar signings, their captain remains one of the key men. Even though he has just returned from an extended break following Brazil's Copa America exploits, it would not be surprising to see the former Roma man thrown straight back into the fray given PSG have conceded three times across their opening two matches.

CB: Presnel Kimpembe

Sergio Ramos, another freebie, may no longer be able to play every game – he appeared only 15 times in LaLiga for Real Madrid last term – but PSG better hope he is there for the big ones. However, the 36-year-old will not be available until September, meaning France defender Kimpembe is likely to continue in the heart of defence for now. He made a game-high four clearances in last week's 4-2 home win over Strasbourg.

LB: Abdou Diallo

This is perhaps the one position on the pitch where PSG lack a genuine world-class option. Even if Pochettino were to bring in Kimpembe as a third centre-back, there is no outstanding left-sided wing-back. Diallo, a defensive full-back in an attacking team, gets the nod by virtue of starting the season fit and ahead of Layvin Kurzawa in the pecking order, while he also assisted Mauro Icardi's opener against Strasbourg.

CM: Ander Herrera

At the end of a season in which Marco Verratti was restricted to only 16 Ligue 1 starts, Euro 2020 provided a reminder of his talents. The Italy midfielder created a tournament-leading 14 chances across just five games while still completing 93.1 per cent of his 417 passes. However, it seems likely we will have to wait to see the playmaker link up with Messi, as he too is only just easing his way back into training. In his place, Herrera seems set to carry on in midfield and, in truth, is a more than able back-up. He attempted 100 passes on matchday two, completing 94 of them.

CM: Danilo Pereira

Leandro Paredes, Messi's international colleague, was trusted for the big occasions in the Champions League. However, he has just returned to training after helping Argentina win the Copa America, while Idrissa Gueye has been out due to COVID-19 protocols. Youngster Eric Ebimbe started against Strasbourg but was replaced by Pereira after an hour, and the towering Portuguese would add some presence in the middle of the park.

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum

Angel Di Maria would be very unfortunate to miss out on a full-strength XI and undoubtedly still has a part to play even with Messi in place, but he too is only just back from international duty. Wijnaldum has featured in both of PSG's Ligue 1 games so far and across his Liverpool Premier League career, led all Reds midfielders in recoveries (951) and duels won (645) and ranked second in interceptions (115) and third in tackles (181).

RW: Lionel Messi

Of course, Messi can play across the front three, but starting from the right – with Hakimi in the Dani Alves role outside him – will bring back memories of Barca teams of old. It is the role he occupied in 2014-15, forming part of perhaps the Blaugrana's most exciting attacking trio, which of course Neymar was also part of.

CF: Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe has the Luis Suarez role, providing the direct runs in behind that create space in front of the defence for Messi and Co, and a video of the two stars linking up in training went viral this week. Last season's 53 goal involvements did not quite match the forward's career-high of 54 in 2018-19, but Mbappe can expect to break all sorts of records in this thrillingly creative line-up this term. He already has two Ligue 1 assists to his name this season, and that is without playing alongside two of the world's best players.

LW: Neymar

Still the world's most expensive player if no longer the biggest name in his own dressing room, Neymar was the third member of that 2014-15 front three. Having decided to step out of Messi's shadow, the Brazil superstar wanted his old friend back. During their four years together at Barca, Neymar assisted Messi 22 times, while the six-time Ballon d'Or winner returned the favour on 20 occasions, and surely the chance to have this sensational front three starting together will be too tempting for Pochettino to turn down – even if it is harsh on the in-form Icardi.

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