In Kylian Mbappé’s defense his comment that Pairs Saint-Germain is “a divisive team, a divisive club” is the brutal truth.
Even the most ardent PSG fan would be hard-pushed to suggest the Parisians do not split opinions.
But, even still, expressing this sentiment to the world whilst also being the team’s talisman is unwise.
His words came in an explosive interview with L’Equipe which has already generated drama at Paris Saint-Germain, six players are reportedly so annoyed by what was said they have complained to the club’s hierarchy.
In fairness to Mbappé, the abbreviated form his quotes have been reduced to hasn’t helped.
As is often the case with an explosive interview, a longer explanation was boiled down to the French striker speaking of a “‘divisive club’ which tends to ‘attract gossip.’”
But the remark was made in response to a question about whether his performances for Paris Saint-Germain had been trivialized.
“Yes,” Mbappé replied, “but at the same time, I don’t blame them. In France, they saw me grow up, they see me all the time, at PSG every weekends or in selection.
“I’ve been scoring a lot for years. So, for people, it’s becoming normal. I’ve never complained that my performances are trivialized.
“I’m young and I’ve had the chance to It was not that long ago to be an observer, before being an actor.
“Myself, I trivialized what Messi was doing, what Cristiano Ronaldo was doing, what the great players were doing. We are in a consumer society, where “it’s good, but do again”.
It was after this considerable set up Mbappé delivered the most controversial lines.
“I think playing at Paris Saint-Germain doesn’t help much because it’s a divisive team, a divisive club,” he added.
“So, of course, it attracts gossip but it doesn’t bother me because I know what I’m doing and how I do it.”
Read in full you can see that rather than being a dig at the club or his teammates, Mbappé is discussing quite philosophically how any success is readily forgotten and dismissed.
His point was that this perception is heightened by his presence at Paris Saint-Germain, a club so far ahead of the competition domestic trebles are considered par.
It’s all fair and true. But at the same time ironically illustrative of the division he describes.
How they were received and the complaints filed by other players only goes to underline that further.
A divided team
The problem for Mbappé is his personal tussles with the club are becoming emblematic of PSG’s divisiveness.
His revelation several weeks back that he did not intend on activating the clause in his contract keeping him in Paris until the summer of 2025 prompted a public disagreement with President Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
“If Kylian wants to stay, we want him to stay,” Al-Khelaifi told the media, “but he needs to sign a new contract. We don’t want to lose the best player in the world for free. That’s impossible. He had said that he would never leave for free. It’s not my fault that he’s changed his mind now.”
The stumbling block for Paris Saint-Germain with or without Mbappé remains much as it always has done; how does this cast of superstars become a team?
Time and again, particularly in the crunch stages of the Champions League, the Parisians have been unable to hold it together.
Great managers ranging from Mauricio Pochettino to Thomas Tuchel have tried their hand at funneling the club’s individual talents into a collective force to varying degrees of success.
The latest man tasked with the challenge is former Barcelona and Spain coach Luis Enrique.
It’s an interesting choice, his success in Barcelona was with the megastar-laden front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez whom he unleashed with a more direct style than his predecessors at the club.
But since leaving that position his teams have followed a stricter possession-based approach more similar to the Pep Guardiola/Johan Cruyff philosophy that defined the Barcelona era before his.
What Enrique serves up for the people of Paris will be fascinating to see.
According to the man himself, there is one commonality in his method: being on the front foot.
“My idea of football is attacking, attacking football, which can be entertaining for the supporters and which produces results,” he said at his unveiling in Paris.
“This is my challenge, I am committed to doing this. I am delighted to be there as PSG coach.”
In words that bore incredibly similarity to those of ex-PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino at his Chelsea unveiling which was only a few days apart, Enrique appeared to heap expectation on himself by raising the thorny topic of Champions League success.
“I love this pressure and this mission, it’s fantastic to have this pressure,” he continued, “there are plenty of teams that have the same dream, sometimes with more experience, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reach this level.
“The Champions League is almost unfair, a bad game and you’re out. We want to get the best out of the team. It’s a challenge. It is substantial,”
Unsurprisingly for a man whose blunt discussions on Twitch were a highlight of the World Cup, Enrique had no qualms about discussing the Mbappé impasse, even if he wasn’t giving much away in terms of internal conversations.
“That’s a professional secret and I can’t give you any updates,” Enrique said, before adding cryptically, “but we will try to have the best squad possible. When I signed I knew that everything was open in the squad. Some things can happen in the market. He’s got a contract and we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes because things are constantly changing. We’ll have a strong squad, I’m sure of that.”