PARIS: The misfiring Kylian Mbappe could be dropped for Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League clash with Anderlecht on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) as the French club look to secure their place in the last 16.
Mbappe’s rise to superstardom has been rapid but the France forward, who is still just 18, is currently going through the worst spell of his short career to date.
After starring in Monaco’s run to the Ligue 1 title and Champions League semi-finals last season, Mbappe joined PSG in August on an initial loan deal that will become permanent for 180 million euros ($209 million) next year.
That will make Mbappe the second most expensive player in history behind his PSG team-mate Neymar, but recent performances suggest that the constant glare of the media spotlight is beginning to catch up with him.
“He is fine. Since he arrived here there have been a lot of changes for him, on the pitch and in terms of his profile in the media, and he is still pretty young so sometimes I don’t think it’s easy,” insisted PSG midfielder Adrien Rabiot on Monday.
“He had some very good performances very early on and he came from a club where he had played very well, in Europe as well. He has been exposed right away, he’s a real star, and at that age it is really difficult to handle it all.”
Mbappe has scored four times in his first 10 games in a Paris shirt, including the opener in the 4-0 win over Anderlecht in Belgium two weeks ago.
But since that game he received a rating of just two out of 10 from sports daily L’Equipe for his display in the 2-2 draw at Marseille and was off colour in Friday’s 3-0 win against Nice.
Angel Di Maria was excellent in that match standing in for the suspended Neymar. The Brazilian is back here, but Di Maria will hope to keep his place and Mbappe is the obvious candidate to take a breather.
“It is a new experience for him,” coach Unai Emery told reporters at the Parc des Princes on Monday.
“When you play well, you open all the papers and you listen to all the sports shows and they say that you are the best.
“You need to be able to balance your mentality, your emotions. When you play badly, you have to be ready for the criticism.”
PSG, who are without the injured Thiago Motta, have had a flying start in Champions League Group B, winning their opening three games with 12 goals scored and none conceded.
They will secure qualification for the last 16 with two matches to spare if they beat their Belgian visitors and Celtic fail to beat Bayern Munich in Glasgow at the same time.
Anderlecht got a 1-1 draw when they last visited the Parc des Princes in the group stage in 2013, but they have yet to register a point or even a goal in this season’s competition.
Such is the gulf between the clubs that coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck even admits the Belgian champions are prioritising their domestic meeting with Club Brugge next weekend.
However, he insisted: “This is not a small match, it is a match against maybe the best team in Europe at the moment.
“We will try to show up well. We have not come to be massacred or just to do our job because we are obliged to— otherwise I would prefer to stay at home.”