Mbappe-PSG row, Ugarte exit and more

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There have been murmurings of a bit of a bust-up between Kylian Mbappe and PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi as he prepares to leave the club. The feeling around Mbappe’s camp is obviously one of disappointment after what happened in the Champions League, and maybe a bit of frustration that the mission that he set himself is not quite complete.

Still, in terms of the communication on Mbappe’s future, there’s been a bit of a divergence from how the player and the club have gone about things. PSG had quite a strict plan in place for how things were going to happen and to be communicated, and they feel this hasn’t always been respected.

Rumours of a bust-up between Mbappe and Al-Khelaifi have been shot down quite quickly by PSG, so we’ll see, with one game left in the Coupe de France final, what kind of role Mbappe will p[ay, but the feeling is certainly that it’s not ending in as friendly or as positive a way as it could have.

Equally, there was an inevitability of this relationship coming to an end and maybe people were a bit surprised at how quickly Mbappe’s farewell video came out after losing the Champions League semi-final to Borussia Dortmund, but at the same time no one was under any illusions that that was what was going to happen, so there was no point in not communicating about it once the one main remaining objective for PSG’s season was taken out of reach.

Kylian Mbappe is set to leave PSG

I think there’s also a sense of relief that there’s finally some clarity and that everyone can move forward, and that’s not just from PSG and Mbappe but also from Ligue 1, which until this moment in time remains without a signed, sealed and delivered TV rights deal starting next season, so there’s lots to work towards in the next couple of weeks for all parties.

There’s been speculation about Manuel Ugarte possibly leaving PSG already, but he started the season well and looked like one of the signings of the summer. It’s been an interesting situation because as the season’s gone on he’s just completely fallen off quite alarmingly. I think he started to come into difficulties in PSG’s Champions League group stage campaign, which was not easy for the whole team, particularly with that blowout 4-1 loss away to Newcastle.

I think Ugarte really became a victim of Luis Enrique and PSG experimenting with a lot of different options and finally settling upon a balanced midfield three which didn’t really need the kind of profile that Ugarte brings.

Still, when I look at the PSG midfield as it is now, and at Ugarte’s first season difficulties, I recall that it’s been quite similar for him as it was with Vitinha, who also struggled to get going in his first season in Paris. He started really well before tailing off, and he needed the reset that came with Enrique in order to thrive, which he’s now doing, so it’s possible that Ugarte now requires the same.

I think the main difficulty from Enrique’s point of view is the technical aspect of things, with Ugarte not quite at the technical level that Enrique would ideally like to have in that midfield alongside Warren Zaire-Emery and Vitinha. I think he really needs all those players to have really high technical ability, which is why Fabian Ruiz has found favour in recent weeks, although he’s not necessarily considered a long-term key piece.

There is a possibility that PSG will look at Ugarte’s situation this summer and decide to opt for him to move on or to at least loan him out, but I think there’ll also be a large element of Enrique having a decision to make on whether he can advance with Ugarte and perhaps he will reach a higher level in his second season now that he’s more comfortable in his surroundings and with his teammates.

Still, it doesn’t change the fact that Enrique doesn’t tend to utilise players of that profile very often, and that’s why the links with Bruno Guimaraes make so much sense, and there are links with Youssouf Fofana at Monaco now as well. It is a possibility that Ugarte could loan go out on loan, perhaps to Serie A or elsewhere, but things certainly haven’t worked out quite how people thought they would, so it’s a big summer for him.

Randal Kolo Muani has been linked with Borussia Dortmund and I think he’s been very unlucky in many ways. Obviously he came in to the PSG attacking rotation at a time when the Kylian Mbappe situation was still flip-flopping a bit, and he came in alongside Goncalo Ramos, with both players struggling at first but with Ramos growing in stature a bit as the season’s gone on.

Kolo Muani hasn’t featured much at all, but the feeling is that he will feature a lot more next season now that Mbappe’s leaving and PSG will rebuild their attack. Given how much money they’ve spent on Kolo Muani, I can’t see them throwing in the towel, but there just hasn’t been the flexibility with the attack so far in order to bring him and Ramos into the fold.

I expect them both to play far more important roles next season than they have this, but it’s still quite an awkward attacking line up for Enrique to put together in terms of his starting XI. It will also be interesting to see what happens with Ousmane Dembele’s position next season, because if he moves into a more central number 10 role there is a possibility that he could play behind Ramos and Kolo Muani. But obviously that would impact PSG massively because of their width, though with Nuno Mendes returning from injury there’s a lot more with now coming from wing-backs like him and Achraf Hakimi.

It could be that we’ll see PSG look a bit more attack-minded next season, but with a lot of the width coming from the wing-backs as opposed to players like Dembele and Mbappe who’ve played out wide this season.

It’s worth saying, though, that a front two is not really a system Enrique has ever played with any real regularity. So it could be a lot of work to get both Ramos and Kolo Muani in his XI, and it’s hard to see Bradley Barcola being overlooked after his form this season. Marco Asensio is another player to think about, so there are maybe five players in that position that Enrique needs to give regular game time to next season, so it could be that perhaps Enrique balances between a three-man attack and a two-man unit with a creator behind.

Kolo Muani might have to adapt and sometimes play out wide, but overall I don’t think we’ll see him leave PSG this summer without him being given more of a chance, considering how much they invested in him.

Didier Deschamps has selected his France squad for Euro 2024 and one name missing that got a lot of attention was in-form Crystal Palace winger Michael Olise. The France squad overall is very interesting, particularly some of the defensive choices, though of course Deschamps’ hand was unfortunately forced a little with the Lucas Hernandez injury.

Still, you can see how spoilt for choice France are when you look at the names that missed out. Players like Axel Disasi and Malo Gusto had their moments at Chelsea this season, but overall it was fairly disappointing for them as we’ve seen with Mauricio Pochettino moving on. Then someone like Jean-Clair Todibo started the season very well with Nice but didn’t make it in at all, so I think it’s a reflection again that Deschamps has been very sure in his mind about the players he likes and can make a group out of, and those he feels are perhaps a bit more problematic.

Others like Moussa Diaby and Christopher Nkunku also missed out, though the latter of those is quite understandable after his injury problems. With Diaby, it’s just a question of consistency, and he hasn’t been as consistent as he could’ve been with Aston Villa over the course of the season, especially when he failed to impress when he was given a chance on the last international break.

We’ve seen Deschamps fall back on players he knows he can trust again, with the likes of Kolo Muani coming in despite barely kicking a ball for PSG, and Olivier Giroud despite Deschamps knowing that he’s going to be dropping off and going to the MLS after this tournament and we can definitely say this will be his farewell. At the same time, though, Deschamps will go back to basics and go with the players he trusts, and Giroud is one of those.

So it’s not too surprising to see Deschamps making these choices, though if I were to pick one name I wasn’t expecting it’s N’Golo Kante coming back completely out of the blue. You’d assume that’s related to experience, but then also Warren Zaire-Emery making it in despite a frustrating first season when he’s really struggled with injuries, so it’s maybe the midfield of that squad that’s maybe a bit more compromised than other areas.

This is a big opportunity for William Saliba to make himself a cornerstone of this team – he’s someone who has a lot to gain from hitting the ground running in this tournament.

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