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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Mbappe Real Madrid, Thuram Arsenal & more


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Despite a recent wave of reports on Kylian Mbappe’s future, it still seems we’re some way off anything final in terms of a decision on a move to Real Madrid or staying at PSG.

There’s been some understandable excitement about this story and things possibly being close, but I don’t think it makes much sense for Mbappe to be announcing anything now, when there’s so much left of the season still to go. So whether Mbappe stays at PSG or goes to Real Madrid, or elsewhere for argument’s sake, it will be quite difficult to keep a lid on it.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi had quite an eventful day at the UEFA Summit last week and when he was asked about Mbappe’s future he said that when he and Mbappe both decided then there would be some communication on it. I think at the moment Mbappe is waiting to see how the second half of the season plays out at PSG, and also seeing how Real Madrid are doing.

With Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti made some interesting comments suggesting he didn’t need Mbappe, and though of course it would be controversial if he did the opposite and named him as one of his top six players in the world, the comments suggested that Real Madrid are not exactly openly bating Mbappe in public, which suggests there is still quite a bit going on in the background. We know Mbappe had an injury scare as well, resting for the game against Lille at the weekend, and the feeling overall is that we’re still unlikely to hear anything, at the very earliest, before some time in March – when PSG know the outcome of their two-legged tie with Real Sociedad and if they’re still top of Ligue 1. It could be that we’ll be made to wait even longer.

As I’ve previously reported, it is also worth considering the possibility that Mbappe will allow his contract to run out completely, with an agreement being found with Real Madrid without the pressure of still being a PSG player. It could then be arranged for Mbappe to meet up with the Madrid squad once the Olympics are over – he’s been clear about his desire to play in the Olympics, and should he join Real there would be two or even three months when he’d technically be under contract at the Bernabeu but unable to play. That’s a lot of money for them to be paying, when you consider the kind of wages he commands, for someone who’s not available for the best part of three months.

I think a formal announcement is still probably some way off, and another factor that plays into that is the fact that PSG’s season at the moment looks fairly promising. We’ll know more over the next few weeks what happens with them in the Champions League and the Coupe De France, but things are going well and Luis Enrique has a real opportunity to show Mbappe what PSG are capable of in the Champions League in particular in what is a very winnable tie with Real Sociedad, whose form has unfortunately dipped recently.

Real Madrid’s attack is already looking so strong this season, and it might be fair to ask where Mbappe really fits in with it all. Ancelotti’s side have been playing without a real central focal point up front, and it looks fairly ideal for them, with Vinicius on the left and Rodrygo on the other side, with Jude Bellingham popping up in the middle. If you add Mbappe to that mix, someone or multiple players are going to lose out.

Mbappe is sort of in a half-way house between being on the left and playing centrally, so it’s not clear he’d definitely gravitate towards a more central role, while Vinicius is also surely not going to lose his place on the left, with Ancelotti recently saying he considers the Brazilian the best player in the world. If Mbappe does take up a central role, it might then also lessen the influence of Bellingham as well, so there’s a lot to consider there.

The Madrid attack is clearly up there with the best in world football right now, so there is perhaps the potential for Mbappe to upset that balance, or at least for somebody else to lose out in that situation. Looking at it in terms of reputation and names alone, you’d think maybe someone like Rodrygo might play a bit of a lesser role, but the most obvious conflict in terms of position on the pitch is with Vinicius on the left, with Mbappe essentially favouring that role.

If Mbappe does join Real, he’ll be under no illusions by now that they won’t exactly be rolling out the red carpet for him in the same way that they were a few years ago when the player eventually decided to stay at PSG. He’d now have to accept a lower offer and would be expected to fit in as best as Ancelotti sees him fitting in.

Still, even if it’s not looking the best fit right now, if you can add Mbappe to that trio of Vinicius, Bellingham and Rodrygo, it’s surely the best attacking quartet in world football if you can complete it.

Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes is a player who is on PSG’s list and they’ll certainly look at him when it comes to determining their priority targets for the summer. There was also some interest before January in Martin Zubimendi of Real Sociedad, and they’ll now get a close look at him when they meet in the Champions League last-16.

I think Guimaraes, though, seems like the absolute perfect fit for the way PSG are set up to play under Luis Enrique. He looks like what PSG need to complete that team. We’re seeing the likes of Bradley Barcola and Ousmane Dembele starting to perform and finally live up to the expectations that were on them when they arrived last summer, so I think there’ll now be a bit more scrutiny on that midfield and how it functions alongside this fantastic attacking line up that the club have put together.

Guimaraes looks to be at the top of PSG’s list as I understand it at this moment in time, but that could change before the end of the season and the opening of the summer transfer window. Still, considering Newcastle’s situation, I think it’s likely that they’ll have to cash in because of Financial Fair Play and then PSG are very interested in his situation and the possibility of putting him into midfield alongside a talent like Warren Zaire-Emery.

We know Liverpool and Barcelona are going to be on the lookout for new managers at the end of this coming season, and while I’d love to say there’s someone managing in Ligue 1 who could be in the conversation for either of those clubs, my honest opinion is that there’s not currently anyone in the French top flight who could step in to either role.

For Liverpool, it’s very hard to see past the obvious fit of Xabi Alonso. The work he’s doing with this Bayer Leverkusen team this season is just phenomenal, if you look at their record but also the way they play, like in their commanding victory over Bayern Munich at the weekend, then the links are obvious, especially as Carlo Ancelotti has extended his contract as Real Madrid manager – it falls really nicely for Xabi Alonso to tread the path to Anfield.

What I will say, however, is that succeeding a manager as successful as Jurgen Klopp is kind of a poisoned chalice for any manager. We’ve seen this before with Unai Emery following on from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, and when David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. It’s very difficult to immediately step into that void and even if Alonso has history as a Liverpool player, which might afford him a bit more patience, it’s very difficult even for the best managers when the expectations are that high, so I think it’s a tricky task and perhaps a more difficult job than it looks.

If I was to pick anybody from Ligue 1 as a bit of an outsider who might be worth considering I might be tempted to go for Lille’s Paulo Fonseca because of the experience he’s had at some big clubs. He’s done decent work with Lille since coming in, but even then I still think it would be quite a leap for him to go to a Liverpool or a Barcelona, with all due respect.

Something I’ll add on Klopp – even if it’s going to be a while before we see him resurface somewhere, I would love the possibility of him coming and coaching Marseille at some point, especially if a takeover happens. I think Marseille very much match the kind of clubs that appeal to Klopp – that emotional connection with the fans is similar to Dortmund and Liverpool. Marseille is also a club that’s been starved of success for some time now, but I think the only way for that to be appealing to Klopp would be with a takeover to happen. I wonder if they’d then be tempted to sound him out, and there have also been links with Zinedine Zidane.

Arsenal are the latest club to be linked with Khephren Thuram as he continues to shine at Nice. He’s obviously someone who’s been of interest to a number of top European sides for some time, most notably Liverpool.

One thing that complicates a potential move to the Premier League now, however, is the link between Nice’s ownership INEOS and Manchester United under Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who has purchased a minority stake there which is expected to grow in the coming years.

So, now I think if there’s any interest in top talent at Nice, like Thuram, or like Jean-Clair Todibo, you’d probably expect them to go to Manchester United before you’d expect them to go to the likes of an Arsenal or a Liverpool. I can certainly see why Arsenal are taking an interest in Thuram’s situation, and they’re not alone in doing that, but I think given Nice’s performances this season, they are still going well in Ligue 1 and will fancy their chances of making it into the Champions League.

Should Nice then qualify for the Champions League that complicates things a little bit more in terms of the asking price, but also potentially with the experience Thuram can get in the competition to help continue his development in France. There’s definitely interest in him, with PSG another name who’ve looked at him in the past, so he’s one to watch but the ownership link now probably puts Man United in the strongest position, assuming that they do qualify for Europe and can offer him a better overall wage package than he’s enjoying at Nice.

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