Pass from Messi, goal from Mbappé; pass from Mbappé, goal from Messi; pass from Messi, goal from Mbappé. The triplicate ritual of attendance and definition culminated the ceremony. She was welcomed by the Marseille Velodrome temple in the Ligue 1 classic held on February 26: 0-3 in favor of PSG. The ball game also requires its formalities. A year and a half after meeting at the same club, and barely two months after the World Cup final was played, Messi and Mbappé embraced as only established soccer spouses embrace. The event served to place Mbappé in a new dimension. At 24 years old, the aspirant to succeed the king of football assumes his status as leader of Paris Saint-Germain with the affectionate recognition of the monarch who precedes him. Few footballers in the world are more complementary and their harmony has rarely been more opportune. Neymar Júnior’s loss due to injury, officially confirmed on Monday, and the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 against Bayern on Wednesday, reinforce the figure of Mbappé at the highlight of the season.
There is no superfluous gesture in the studied career of the most important sportsman in France. Cheered up by Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, he has wrapped himself in the superhero cape to publicly announce that he hopes to overcome the tie after the 0-1 first leg. “We are going to Munich to qualify,” he said on Saturday, on the grass of the Parc des Princes, before the stands still full of cheering fans, after beating Nantes (4-2) in Ligue 1. “We will play with confidence that we are going to win”.
Microphone in hand, Mbappé addressed the thousands of fans who crowded into the stands after seeing him score his 201st goal with the PSG shirt along the way. The goal – crowned with another hug from Messi – surpassed the record of 200 held by Edinson Cavani with the Parisian club. Mbappé used the occasion to harangue the masses on the eve of the most decisive day of an institution that has made winning its first Champions League its raison d’être.
“Having scored with the captain’s armband is magnificent for me,” said the goalscorer, who has 30 goals in 30 games this season. “But I am here to achieve things with the team. The three consecutive victories that we have achieved after the defeat against Bayern speak of a collective progression. We are ready!”.
Mbappé proclaimed his leadership fully aware that the stage was clearing of the unwanted figure of Neymar. For a week, at the Paris club they handled evidence that points to the loss of the Brazilian for the remainder of the season. The news became official yesterday. Neymar’s right ankle needs an operation. The one who was the undisputed star of the Qatari project between 2017 and 2022 disappeared again on the eve of another Champions League tie.
Sources close to the PSG administration point out that the match with Bayern brings together an unusual charge. A loss could unleash unpredictable consequences, even with the potential to initiate a progressive disassociation of Qatari owners. “It is impossible for PSG to pass the tie without a great game from Mbappé,” says a PSG collaborator, who, like the sheikhs, points to the striker’s power. If for some reason they renewed his contract until 2025, committing to pay him what a footballer has never received, a total gross sum of 630 million euros for three seasons, according to le parisienIt was because both the club and the scorer conspired to win this Champions League.
The only condition that Mbappé put to continue —and thus give up destinations such as Liverpool or Real Madrid— was to remodel the sports structure to achieve a “more professional” operation, in the words of an advisor to the footballer. PSG understood that this message was subliminally aimed at firing Neymar, pole of folklore and entertainment, or dissipating the influence that his private life had had on the team’s daily activities. The hiring of Luis Campos as sports director served this purpose. Fate has finished separating Neymar in the middle of the battle.
“The Ballon d’Or is in a corner of my head,” Mbappé admitted on Saturday. The race to the top begins tomorrow in Munich.
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