PSG Hold Out Hope Over Mbappe Future In Title Run-In

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe gestures during a training session at the Camp des Loges Paris Saint-Germain football club’s training ground in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on April 8, 2022.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

 

Paris Saint-Germain remain hopeful that Kylian Mbappe will sign a new contract to stay at the club with just eight games left this season before his existing deal expires.

Despite all the speculation that he will join Real Madrid as a free agent, the France superstar has insisted that his mind is not yet made up between moving to the Spanish capital and remaining in Paris.

“I haven’t made my choice. I haven’t taken my decision, I’m thinking it over, there are new elements and there are loads of factors,” Mbappe said last weekend after two goals and a hat-trick of assists in a 5-1 demolition of Lorient.

It was the latest world-class display from the 23-year-old who has scored 28 goals this season in all competitions and is Ligue 1’s top assist-provider with 13.

Amid rumours about the astronomical sums that PSG are prepared to offer Mbappe to stay, along with perhaps the captain’s armband and a say in transfer policy, there was good news for the Qatar-owned club from UEFA this week.

European football’s governing body announced new regulations to replace its existing financial fair play rules, but said a cap that limits spending on wages and transfers to 70 percent of total revenues will not come in until 2025.

Meanwhile clubs will be allowed to report losses of 60 million euros ($65.5m) over three years rather than 30 million euros previously, all of which appears to offer PSG more room to break the bank for their star player.

“Kylian will give a better answer than me, but PSG and me as coach all want the best for Kylian and the best for the club,” boss Mauricio Pochettino said on Friday ahead of his team’s trip to relegation-threatened Clermont.

“We think the best thing for the club is that Kylian stays.”

Pochettino added that Mbappe could be given the armband in Clermont with regular skipper Marquinhos rested following the birth of his daughter during the week.

The Brazilian’s absence could also open the door for Sergio Ramos to make a rare start in an injury-plagued season.

All PSG have left to play for in an anti-climactic end to the season is making sure they wrap up the title.

They are 12 points clear of Marseille with eight games left and host their bitter rivals next weekend and so should have an eighth championship in 10 years secured by the end of the month.

Player to watch: Tete
The 22-year-old Brazilian winger joined Lyon until the end of the season after being allowed to leave Shakhtar Donetsk due to the war in Ukraine. Tete, who played in all six Champions League group games for Shakhtar earlier this season, enjoyed a dream debut for his new club, coming off the bench and scoring with just his third touch against Angers last weekend.

He played the role of super-sub again on Thursday, helping set up the equaliser within two minutes of coming off the bench in Lyon’s 1-1 Europa League draw with West Ham United.

“Tete is a special player who I have known for a long time,” said Lyon coach Peter Bosz after signing the ex-Gremio player who will hope to make an impact again at Strasbourg on Sunday.

Key stats
30 – Kylian Mbappe has scored or set up a total of 30 Ligue 1 goals this season. That is 47 percent of PSG’s overall tally of 64.

18 – The number of goals scored by Ligue 1’s leading marksman, Wissam Ben Yedder of Monaco

5 – The number of points separating the bottom five teams in the table. The bottom two, Bordeaux and Metz, play each other this weekend while Lorient in 16th host 18th-placed Saint-Etienne.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Lorient v Saint-Etienne (1900)

Saturday

Reims v Rennes (1500), Clermont v Paris Saint-Germain (1900)

Sunday

Bordeaux v Metz (1100), Angers v Lille, Brest v Nantes, Monaco v Troyes (all 1300), Lens v Nice (1505), Strasbourg v Lyon (1700), Marseille v Montpellier (1900

Barcelona’s ‘Doors Are Open’ To Messi – Xavi

In this file photo, Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi looks on prior to the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and Girondins de Bordeaux at The Parc des Princes Stadium, in Paris on March 13, 2022. (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)

 

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said on Saturday “the doors are open” to Lionel Messi.

Xavi was speaking in a press conference ahead of the Clasico on Sunday when Barca face La Liga leaders Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Messi has endured a disappointing season at Paris Saint-Germain although Barca’s dire financial situation would make re-signing the Argentinian difficult.

La Liga’s latest spending restrictions published last week set Barcelona’s limit at -144 million euros ($159 million). It means the club will have to make considerable savings to sign anyone in the next transfer window.

Messi was let go last year because Barca could not afford to renew his contract, bringing an emotional end to the striker’s historic career at Camp Nou.

Asked if he would open the door to Messi coming back, Xavi said: “He is the best player in history and the history of the club, he’s earned the right to have the doors open to him.

READ ALSO: Messi Absent As Monaco Thrash PSG

“As long as I am coach the doors are open to him if he wants to come any day. He is the best in history and as a club we owe him a great tribute, he deserves it, but he has a contract with PSG, so there is little more I can tell you.

“If he wants to come any day, to see training, talk to the coach, the doors are open because he is the best player in the history of the club.”

Without Messi, Barcelona struggled for much of the season but Xavi, who was appointed in November, has overseen a significant upturn in form.

 Real Without Injured Benzema 

Barca sit third, on course to qualify for next season’s Champions League, and will be hopeful of landing a statement victory against Real Madrid, who will be without their star striker Karim Benzema.

Benzema is out with a calf injury and will not be risked, allowing the Frenchman the international break to recover for the run-in and Champions League quarter-finals against Chelsea.

“Tomorrow he can’t play because he hasn’t trained,” said Carlo Ancelotti on Saturday. “He still feels a little discomfort, it’s a small injury, but it won’t let him train and obviously he won’t play either.”

“The fact that he doesn’t play tomorrow doesn’t worry me because it means we will have two weeks to get him ready for the end of the season when he will be very important as always,” Ancelotti added.

Xavi said Benzema’s absence would be a “significant blow” for Real Madrid while confirming that Gerard Pique will be available for Barca.

“He’s fine, he has some minor discomfort, but he’s fine,” said Xavi.

Despite winning their last four consecutive league games, Barcelona are 15 points behind Real Madrid in the table, albeit with a game in hand.

They could overhaul stumbling Sevilla to finish second but a late title charge appears almost impossible.

“We cannot rule Barcelona out, they will fight until the last game,” said Ancelotti.

“Winning the league is unlikely,” said Xavi. “I think will be difficult.”

But there is an opportunity for Barcelona to show they are ready to challenge for the title again under Xavi next season.

“We have grown as a team since I arrived but it doesn’t mean anything, it’s a Clasico and we have to show our personality,” Xavi said.

“It is a chance to show we are in a good moment because we have had good results but tomorrow is another litmus test, to prove that against another big team, we can play and impose our game.”

Xavi added: “Otherwise I know the media and they will say the improvement has not been seen in the most important game of the season.”

AFP

Messi Absent As PSG Suffer Worst Defeat Of The Season

Monaco’s French forward Wissam Ben Yedder (unseen) celebrates with teammates after scoring a penalty during the French L1 football match between AS Monaco and Paris Saint Germain (PSG) at the Louis II Stadium (Stade Louis II) in the Principality of Monaco on March 20, 2022. CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain were beaten 3-0 at Monaco on Sunday after a Wissam Ben Yedder double strike, as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were both booked in a feisty Ligue 1 encounter. It was the club’s worst defeat this season.

PSG remain 15 points clear of second-placed Marseille at the top of Ligue 1 after the fourth league defeat of the season for Mauricio Pochettino’s men, who have been shaken since being dumped out of the Champions League by Real Madrid.

Nice can close the gap to 12 points if they beat Marseille in Sunday’s late Ligue 1 game.

Monaco captain Ben Yedder is now Ligue 1’s top scorer with 18 goals after his 25th-minute tap-in from a rebound, and an 84th-minute penalty.

Ben Yedder also helped in the build-up for German striker Kevin Volland’s goal for Monaco, making it 2-0 on 68 minutes in what was the real turning point of the game as PSG began to chase.

Mbappe and Neymar started for PSG and had a string of opportunities as the visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession.

READ ALSO: Barcelona’s ‘Doors Are Open’ To Messi – Xavi

Monaco’s German forward Kevin Volland (C) celebrates with Monaco’s French midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni (C-R) after scoring the second goal during the French L1 football match between AS Monaco and Paris Saint Germain (PSG) at the Louis II Stadium (Stade Louis II) in the Principality of Monaco on March 20, 2022. Valery HACHE / AFP

 

Mbappe said the bitterness of the Champions League defeat earlier this month was still felt at the club.

“We could win 8-0 and nobody would care, they’d just be thinking about the Champions League,” he said.

“We need to remain professional, think of our families,” said Mbappe, who was full of praise for his old club.

“They are a great team, playing in European competition,” said the 23-year-old.

PSG captain Marquinhos described the defeat as a wake-up call.

“If we carry on like that the title will be in danger. We have been warned,” he said.

“We came here to win and have fun, but that was a catastrophe.”

PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said it was time his players picked themselves up.

“On a sporting level, that was shameful. We have to get over the disappointment of being eliminated from the Champions League,” the Argentine said.

Monaco’s Belgian coach Philippe Clement can also thank his goalkeeper Alexander Nuebel, who made important saves from Mbappe, Neymar, and the marauding Moroccan Achraf Hakimi.

AFP

Messi Left To Pick Up Pieces At PSG After Jeers And Champions League Failure

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi looks on prior to the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and Girondins de Bordeaux at The Parc des Princes Stadium, in Paris on March 13, 2022. (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)

 

 

A season that started with such feverish excitement is turning out to be nothing short of a fiasco in Paris for Lionel Messi, who suffered the ignominy of being booed by his own supporters last weekend.

Unhappy Paris Saint-Germain fans targeted the Argentine as well as Neymar during the 3-0 win over Bordeaux that followed the club’s spectacular Champions League elimination at the hands of Real Madrid.

“We understand their disappointment, their feeling of hatred,” admitted PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe.

Adored in Barcelona, from where he made a tearful exit last August, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner suddenly found himself in a position he had never previously experienced during his remarkable club career.

The 34-year-old still has 10 games left with PSG this season, including Sunday’s trip to Monaco, but he could be forgiven for wishing the campaign were already over.

In some respects it is, given PSG have again failed to win the Champions League.

When Messi was unveiled at the Parc des Princes at the start of the season he admitted winning another European Cup was his “dream” and said he felt he was in the “ideal place” to do it.

It was not to be, at least this season, and Messi will be 35 by the time the next campaign begins. Instead all he can look forward to for now is winning the Ligue 1 title.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team are currently 15 points clear of Marseille and Nice, and surely PSG cannot throw that advantage away.

In any case, reclaiming the domestic title will be a very hollow victory for a club who enjoy such an enormous financial advantage over their rivals — Messi’s salary alone is reported to be around 30 million euros ($33.4m) net in his first season in Paris.

The player who is arguably the best of all time has failed to come remotely close to the form he produced so regularly in Barcelona.

He has just seven goals in all competitions this season, only two of which have come in Ligue 1 — in contrast he scored at least 31 goals in each of his last 13 seasons at the Camp Nou.

A campaign that started late due to his lack of a pre-season was also interrupted in the middle when he tested positive for Covid-19 during a trip back to Argentina.

Messi has therefore missed significant chunks, and the flashes of his genius have been too fleeting.

There has already been speculation in France that he could seek a move away from Paris, but for now he must try to focus on what is left of the season and the remaining games alongside Kylian Mbappe before the France superstar’s expected departure for Real Madrid.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi kicks the ball during the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and Girondins de Bordeaux at The Parc des Princes Stadium, in Paris on March 13, 2022. (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)

 

Player to watch: Jose FonteAt 38, the veteran Portuguese defender deserves to be singled out for praise. Despite his advancing years, he is the only outfield player to have featured in every minute of every Ligue 1 game this season, 28 matches into the campaign.

Indeed Fonte — a standout in the Lille team that won the title last season — has played every minute of his club’s 39 matches in all competitions, including on their run to the Champions League last 16.

Key stats50 – Mauricio Pochettino is set for his 50th Ligue 1 game in charge of PSG.

7 – The number of points separating reigning champions Lille from the Champions League qualifying places. They were knocked out of this season’s Champions League in midweek by Chelsea.

6 – Six-time French champions Bordeaux have not won any of their last six games and prop up the table, five points away from outright safety.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Saint-Etienne v Troyes (2000)

Saturday

Lens v Clermont (1600), Nantes v Lille (2000)

Sunday

Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain (1200), Angers v Brest, Bordeaux v Montpellier, Lorient v Strasbourg, Rennes v Metz (all 1400), Reims v Lyon (1605), Marseille v Nice (1945)

Fans Boo Messi And PSG Stars Despite Win Over Bordeaux

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) runs with the ball during the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and Girondins de Bordeaux at The Parc des Princes Stadium, in Paris on March 13, 2022. Alain JOCARD / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain beat Ligue 1 strugglers Bordeaux 3-0 on Sunday amid incessant whistles directed at stars including Lionel Messi and Neymar from home fans furious at another European exit.

Amid a gloomy atmosphere in the French capital, only Kylian Mbappe, who scored both goals in the last-16 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, escaped the wrath of the fans.

On Sunday, Mbappe was again on target, scoring the opening goal after 24 minutes with Neymar and Leandro Paredes adding two more in the second half.

Read Also: Barcelona Hammer Real Madrid To Clinch Women’s League Title

The Parisians hold a 15-point lead on second-placed Nice and are on track to equal Saint-Etienne’s record of 10 French titles, but the frustration of their home fans spilled over.

Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi was booed as never before in his career, even in the rare bad times with Argentina, and whistled at every touch of the ball.

Coach Mauricio Pochettino said the players had greeted the hostility “with sadness”.

“No-one who loves PSG, its colours, and who feels the frustration of elimination, can experience it in any other way.

“Sadness. I think that’s the right word. The sadness of experiencing an afternoon like this here at the Parc des Princes.

“Messi and Neymar? We are all affected, we understand the disappointment and frustration, which we also share. But we are responsible. We only have to assume it as a team and we will be united until the end.”

Ligue 1 is Pochettino’s side’s only objective this season.

“We are satisfied with the performance of the team in difficult circumstances, the team responded, with a professional performance, with a 3-0,” added the Argentine.

Mbappe blasted in the first goal from Georginio Wijnaldum’s pass cross in a move also involving Messi. It was the World Cup winner’s 15th goal of the season in Ligue 1.

Neymar added a second seven minutes after the break with Messi again sending through for Achraf Hakimi who teed up the Brazilian to finish off.

Leandro Paredes got on the scoresheet for the first time this season after an hour blasting the ball into the top of the net.

Bordeaux have lost seven of their ten away games this season, and sit bottom of the table.

Benzema-Led Madrid Comeback Stuns PSG

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16-second league football match between Real Madrid CF and Paris Saint-Germain at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 9, 2022.
GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

“Real Madrid are still alive,” said Karim Benzema, the 34-year-old striker who scored a second-half hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain again self-destructed in the Champions League knockout stages.

PSG were cruising at 2-0 up on aggregate after Kylian Mbappe’s 39th-minute strike.

For an hour the Paris club looked assured of a last-eight berth, but Benzema turned the tie on its head with three goals in 17 minutes as Real swept to a 3-1 win and 3-2 aggregate triumph.

Even by PSG’s standards, this was an epic collapse, five years to the day since Barcelona overturned a 4-0 last-16 first-leg deficit against them by winning 6-1 at Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi and Neymar were in Barcelona colours that day, but both were on the receiving end this time, unable to rid PSG of their habit of crumbling when it matters most.

Madrid’s comeback may not have matched that night in Barcelona for scale or drama –- Benzema’s winner came in the 78th minute not the 95th and Madrid came from two behind, not four -– but the impact might be greater.

In the year of the controversial World Cup in Qatar, Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were stitched together with limitless resources from the oil-rich Gulf state to win the Champions League, not crash out in the last 16.

Defeat throws Mauricio Pochettino’s future as a coach into serious doubt, raises further questions about Messi’s departure from Barca and prolongs the Qatari-owned club’s wait for that elusive European crown, despite more than a billion euros splurged on transfers.

Mbappe closer to leaving

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe reacts during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second league football match between Real Madrid CF and Paris Saint-Germain at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 9, 2022.
GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

“We have not managed our emotions well and we left ourselves too exposed,” said Pochettino.

Mbappe took a step closer to leaving. The 23-year-old, out of contract in the summer, was at his scintillating best at his prospective new Santiago Bernabeu home, where the Madrid fans applauded his name.

Mbappe’s sales pitch, if he needed one, was perfect. He showed why he is regarded as the best player in the world at the moment, while Madrid in return confirmed they are a more serious European title-winning prospect than PSG.

When Zinedine Zidane led Real Madrid to Champions League victory in 2018, they enjoyed a run of similar great escapes in the knock-out stage, and few believed they could win the trophy then either.

Doubts linger around Carlo Ancelotti’s side at the very highest level. For the entirety of the first leg in Paris and for 60 minutes of the second, Madrid were inferior to PSG, who made them look slow, heavy-legged and like a team whose core are in their mid-thirties.

It is possible the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea or Bayern Munich would do the same, but without the late capitulation.

And yet this is not the first time Madrid have proven itself to be great survivors on the European stage. Through experience, belief and sheer force of will, Real Madrid always tend to go further than they should.

‘Mental strength’

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar (R) and Paris Saint-Germain’s Italian midfielder Marco Verratti react after Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema scored his team’s third goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second league football match between Real Madrid CF and Paris Saint-Germain at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 9, 2022.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

“We have suffered a lot, but we have endured. After (our) first goal there was only one team on the pitch,” said Ancelotti.

“We won the match with our mental strength,” said Benzema.

In Benzema, they have one of the world’s classiest strikers, an all-rounder getting better with age who sent a message that he wants to play with, not instead of, his fellow Frenchman Mbappe if he arrives in Madrid.

Luka Modric was sensational again, stepping up in the second half, the highlight of which was his contribution to Benzema’s second goal with an exquisite reverse pass.

Thibaut Courtois, at 29 among the best goalkeepers on the planet, prevented Mbappe from scoring at least twice more.

Real Madrid, though, still lack the mobility and dynamism of Bayern and the Premier League’s leading lights. Saving up for Mbappe for the last three years has seen to that.

And while Ancelotti is an expert man manager, he is not a visionary coach in the mould of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp or Julian Nagelsmann, all of whom are currently at the forefront of the game’s tactical thinking.

Yet Real Madrid remain alive. They came back to beat PSG with the old instincts kicking in and the fans singing at the end: “This is how we win.” It was hard to disagree.

-AFP

FIRST 11: Abramovich Hands Over Chelsea + Last Week’s Biggest Sports Stories

First 11 captures the most important sports stories for the week.

 

It’s now four days since Russia invaded Ukraine. While the military action has continued, sporting activities have also been affected. Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich has handed over the club to their board of trustees, becoming one of the biggest sporting impacts of the conflict.

First 11 covers this, the Super Falcon’s qualification for the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, their delay at the Abuja airport, and other major sports stories last week.

Abramovich Hands Over Chelsea

A file photo of Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich.

 

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich handed over Chelsea to the club’s board of trustees on Saturday.  His move followed sanctions against Russian entities after the invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich is an oligarch, one of the groups targeted by western sanctions. Earlier, UK lawmakers said they were planning to take over Chelsea after linking Abramovich to the Russian state and his reported involvement in corrupt practices.

Russian GP Cancelled

This file photograph taken on September 24, 2021l shows drivers as they steer their cars during the second practice session for the Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit in Sochi.  Alexander NEMENOV / AFP

 

Apart from this, Formula One authorities also cancelled the Russian Grand Prix billed for September 25 as fighting continued into the second day in the Eastern European nation.

Earlier, world champion Max Verstappen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel had said they won’t be taking part in the testing in Barcelona, an opposition to driving at the Russian Grand Prix.

UEFA Changes Champions League Host

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization's headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
This file photo taken on February 28, 2020, shows the UEFA logo at the organization’s headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Formula One was not the only sporting body that took a drastic decision since the invasion. Europe’s football governing body moved the Champions League final from Saint Petersburg to Stade de France in France’s capital of Paris. The final will hold on Saturday, May 28, 2022.

‘No To War’ 

A photo combination of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and Fedor Smolov.

 

During the week, Fedor Smolov became the first Russian footballer to publicly oppose his country’s invasion of  Ukraine. The 32-year-old  Dynamo Moscow took to social media to condemn the action and wrote: “No to war” on Instagram.  A day before that, Ukrainian forward Roman Yaremchuk celebrated a Champions League goal for his Portuguese side Benfica by revealing a shirt bearing his country’s coat of arms.

Elanga Keeps Man U’s Hopes Alive

In this file photo, Manchester United’s players celebrate after Swedish forward Anthony Elanga scored a goal during the UEFA Champions League football match between Atletico de Madrid and Manchester United at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on February 23, 2022. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

In other matches in Europe’s elite competition, Chelsea became one of the first teams to put one leg in the next round. They saw off Lille, 2-0, in the first leg of the last 16 game at Stamford Bridge. Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic scored the goals for the defending champions.

A day later, Anthony Elanga netted a late winner to help Manchester United peg Atletico Madrid. The second-round game ended 1-1. The Spanish side had led for much of the match, thanks to a goal from Joao Felix. But Manchester United stroked home an equaliser with just ten minutes to time, cancelling Felix’s seventh-minute effort. Villareal and Juventus had the same scoreline just as Benfica drew 2-2 with Ajax in other Champions League ties.

Barcelona Outclass Napoli

Barcelona’s Gabonese midfielder Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the UEFA Europa League knockout round play-off second leg football match between SSC Napoli and FC Barcelona at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in Naples on February 24, 2022. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

 

After the Champions League, action returned to Europa League as Barcelona outclassed Napoli to reach the last 16. The Catalans won 4-2 to end the tie 5-3 after the first leg finished 1-1.

“We dominated for 90 minutes and that’s the first time we’ve done that since I became coach,” Xavi told reporters after the match. “It’s a win over a team which I repeat is a Champions League-level team, one which does not concede many goals and is fighting for the league title.”

Falcons Qualify For AWCON

The Super Falcons are the defending African champions. [email protected]

 

At the home front, the Super Falcons of Nigeria qualified for the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON). The defending champions beat Ivory Coast 0-1 on Wednesday to end the game on a 3-0 aggregate. It was sweet revenge for the Nigerian girls who had lost to the Lady Elephants in the qualification series for the football event of the Tokyo Olympics.

‘Unfortunate’ Welcome

The Super Falcons were delayed for hours at the airport.

 

But their victory was marred by the controversy that greeted them once they touched down in the country. They were held up at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja over COVID-19 protocols. Officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) demanded that the players and officials undergo a round of routine tests and pay a certain amount of money before. This is despite having done tests less than 24 hours before arrival in Nigeria.

While reacting to the incident, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), apologised to the ladies, describing the development as ‘unfortunate’.

“We are a responsible organization and the various National Teams have been going out and returning to Nigeria since these covid19 protocols, procedures, and guidelines started. We have never been caught napping, “NFF General Secretary, Dr Mohammed Sanusi said.

Sanusi added: “It was beyond us, but we have already apologized to our players and officials over this incident.”

‘Jollof’ Derby Gets New Date

(Top L-R) Nigeria’s goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, defender Kenneth Omeruo, forward Taiwo Awoniyi, midfielder Joe Aribo, defender William Troost-Ekong, (bottom L-R) forward Kelechi Iheanacho, defender Ola Aina, defender Zaidu Sanusi, forward Moses Simon and forward Samuel Chukwueze pose prior to the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

On the other hand, their male counterpart have their 2022 World Cup play-off date shifted. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) moved the first leg from March 24 to 25 while the return fixture, previously billed for March 27, will take place at the Moshood Abiola (MKO) National Stadium in Abuja on March 29.

 

FIFA Sanctions Kenya, Zimbabwe

FIFA Bans Ex-Zambian Football Chief Bwalya Over Bribery Allegations
FIFA Logo

 

On Thursday, FIFA suspended the Kenyan and Zimbabwean football federations over government interference.

“Without prejudice to investigations by national authorities or other judiciary bodies, the FIFA Council has decided to suspend the Kenya Football Federation and the Zimbabwe Football Federation with immediate effect for undue influence by a third party,” FIFA said in a statement.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the sanction was due to “government interference in the activities of the football federation”.

“They know what needs to be done for the suspension to be lifted,” he said.

D’Tigress Make Giant Leap

The Nigerian girls are the African champions. Photo: FIBA.

 

Meanwhile, the D’Tigress moved up the FIBA rankings on the back of their impressive showing at the world cup qualifiers. The female team are now 14th on the globe, going one place up from their previous ranking. They are trailing South Korea who are in the 13th position.

Nigeria grabbed their ticket for the competition after two wins in three matches. They had lost to China in their opening tie but victories against France and Mali earned them a spot in Australia.

‘Unstoppable’ Mbappe Underlines Value To PSG, Leaves Messi In Shade

Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe (C) shoots and scores a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on February 15, 2022. Alain JOCARD / AFP
Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe (C) shoots and scores a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on February 15, 2022. Alain JOCARD / AFP

 

Kylian Mbappe’s importance to Paris Saint-Germain was all too evident long before his stoppage-time strike gave them a narrow win over Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League showdown on Tuesday and left them on course for a place in the quarter-finals.

It is understood that PSG rejected an offer worth up to 180 million euros ($204m) from Real in August for Mbappe, despite the France World Cup-winning striker being in the final year of his contract.

They wanted at least one more season with Mbappe at the Parc des Princes knowing that, even with Lionel Messi and Neymar there too, he is the man they need if they are finally to win a first Champions League title since the Qatari takeover of 2011.

READ ALSO: Mbappe Strikes Late To Give PSG Edge Over Real Madrid

Mbappe is still expected to leave at the end of the campaign for Real, the club who have tracked him since he was a teenager but who are now in danger of going out of the Champions League after his last-gasp winner.

The last-16 first leg in the French capital was still goalless in the fourth and final minute of injury time when the 23-year-old Mbappe burst into the box and finished through the legs of Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

That gave PSG a 1-0 victory that even Real coach Carlo Ancelotti admitted was deserved after a game dominated by the home side.

Mbappe had the Ligue 1 leaders’ best chance of the first half and forced a good save from Courtois early in the second half before winning a penalty just past the hour mark when he was fouled by Dani Carvajal.

Messi took the spot-kick only for Courtois to save, but Mbappe kept tormenting the Real defence and eventually got his reward, confirming why the Spanish giants are so desperate to secure his signature.

“I have been working with him for just over a year now and you could see tonight just how good a player he is,” said PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Ancelotti described him as “unstoppable” and Real risk being exposed by his terrifying pace on the break as they chase the tie in the return in three weeks.

 Speculation over future 

Mbappe’s late strike against Real came four days after he also scored a last-minute winner in a Ligue 1 game against Rennes.

He now has 22 goals this season in all competitions, while PSG’s second-top scorer is Messi with seven.

Indeed Mbappe — Ligue 1’s top scorer in the last three seasons — has four more goals than Messi, Mauro Icardi, Angel Di Maria and Neymar combined in the current campaign.

For all the outstanding talent around him, he is the man who makes the difference and PSG’s Qatari president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, can only hope a victory in the tie might persuade the one-time Monaco prodigy to sign a new contract.

“Too many questions are asked and too many things are said,” Mbappe insisted when asked about the ongoing speculation over his future.

“The truth is that we are talking about Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, two big clubs. I am a PSG player and I am still really happy.

“I said I would give everything here. I had to come out and prove it. I did it this first time and now I need to do it a second time at the Bernabeu.”

In contrast, Messi is struggling to reproduce his Barcelona form and he failed from the spot.

The Argentine, who won his seventh Ballon d’Or last year, has missed five of the 23 penalties he has taken in the Champions League.

He has scored just twice in Ligue 1 this season and two of his five Champions League goals so far came in an inconsequential group game against Club Brugge.

Meanwhile, Neymar made his return as a substitute after two and a half months out with an ankle injury and helped set up Mbappe’s late goal with a crafty backheel pass.

There is plenty more to come from the world’s most expensive player if he can just stay fit, but Mbappe holds the key to European glory and both PSG and Real know it.

AFP

Mbappe Strikes Late To Give PSG Edge Over Real Madrid

Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe (C) shoots and scores a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on February 15, 2022. Alain JOCARD / AFP
Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe (C) shoots and scores a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on February 15, 2022.
Alain JOCARD / AFP

 

Kylian Mbappe scored four minutes into injury time to give Paris Saint-Germain a 1-0 win over Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

After Lionel Messi’s 62nd-minute penalty was saved by Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, it looked as though the game would finish goalless until Mbappe struck at the death.

The second leg will be played in Spain on March 9.

Mbappe Future Focuses All Attention As PSG Face Real Madrid

File photo:  Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe reacts during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Stade Brestois 29 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on January 15, 2022. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

 

As Paris Saint-Germain prepare to face Real Madrid in the Champions League, the French club hope a victory in the tie could yet help convince Kylian Mbappe to stay rather than move to the Spanish capital.

The clock continues to tick down on the World Cup-winning striker’s contract in Paris which expires in June, five years after he joined his hometown team from Monaco in a 180 million-euro ($204m) deal.

It is understood PSG turned down an equivalent offer from Real last August to keep Mbappe for at least one more season and team him up in attack with Lionel Messi and Neymar.

READ ALSOFootball Fan Shot Dead In Brazil After Chelsea’s Win Over Palmeiras

That seemed to prove money is no object for the Qatar-owned club, but it appears that all the money in the world may not be enough to convince Mbappe, now 23, to stay at the Parc des Princes.

Real’s pursuit of the France star goes back to when he was a young teenager and they invited him and his parents to take in a game at the Santiago Bernabeu, having Zinedine Zidane meet him at their training ground.

He opted to sign for Monaco then, and he chose PSG in 2017 despite again being linked with Real, yet an eventual move to Madrid has always seemed inevitable.

Mbappe has been the top scorer in Ligue 1 in the last three seasons and despite the arrival of Messi, he has remained PSG’s most decisive player by a distance in this campaign.

On Friday, he scored the winner against Rennes to move on to 21 goals for the season, more than Messi, Neymar, Angel Di Maria, and Mauro Icardi put together.

“He is already one of the greatest players in PSG’s history,” captain Marquinhos told broadcaster TF1. When asked if he had tried to convince Mbappe to stay, he added: “Of course.”

No Decision Taken 

File photo: Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe runs on the pitch during the French L1 football match between Stade de Reims and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Stade Auguste Delaune in Reims, northern France on August 29, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

In Paris, they are clinging to the hope Mbappe could change his mind if Mauricio Pochettino’s team beat Madrid in their Champions League last-16 tie, with the first leg at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday to be followed by the return in Spain on March 9.

“I have not made my decision,” Mbappe told Amazon Prime last week.

“The fact we are playing against Real Madrid changes a lot of things.

“Even though I am free to do so, I am not going to go and talk to our opponents. I am focused on beating Real Madrid and then we will see.”

Mbappe has won every domestic honour with PSG several times over but has not been able to win the Champions League, coming closest in 2020 when they lost the final to Bayern Munich.

Pochettino, though, played down the significance of the clash with Real in terms of Mbappe’s career.

“I don’t think such an important decision could come down to one match or one tie,” he told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser.

“He has lots of people around him who I am sure are advising him in the best way. He will make a decision after the tie.”

It is a pivotal moment for PSG. This season has simply confirmed that, while a 34-year-old Messi is on the wane and Neymar remains plagued by injury, Mbappe represents the future.

Real Seek New Talisman 

A loss to Real, followed by Mbappe confirming his departure would feel like a humiliation for a club still chasing elusive Champions League glory, 11 years on from the Qatar Sports Investments takeover.

Meanwhile, regardless of the outcome of this tie, Madrid need a new talisman.

Karim Benzema is 34 and Luka Modric will soon be 37, while Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard have been increasingly sidelined under Carlo Ancelotti.

Vinicius Junior is now confirming his potential and adding Mbappe in attack is a mouth-watering prospect.

Since their splurge on Hazard in 2019, Real have been quiet in the transfer market with some believing the club has not only been absorbing the financial consequences of the pandemic but also saving funds for their Mbappe pursuit.

Money has also been directed towards renovating the Bernabeu, and Real would love to have Mbappe spearheading a new-look team in a new-look stadium.

AFP

PSG Goalkeeper Donnarumma Tests Positive For COVID-19

Paris Saint-Germain’s Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma delivers a speech after being awarded the Yashin Trophy for best goalkeeper during the 2021 Ballon d’Or France Football award ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on November 29, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has tested positive for Covid-19, the club announced on Tuesday, the day after he played in a French Cup match.

Donnarumma will miss Sunday’s Ligue 1 match in Lyon with Costa Rican Keylor Navas likely to fill in.

The 22-year-old Italian international joins a growing list of PSG players who have been sidelined by positive tests.

Five players, including Lionel Messi and Danilo Pereira, were absent from the team that eased into the last 16 of the French Cup on Monday with a 4-0 win over fourth-division Vannes.

“It’s a very strange virus. We are following the situation of each player. We know that there may be more infections,” said PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino on Monday.

“We are a team that respects the controls and the obligation to test ourselves. We hope that there will be no additional cases.”

Juan Bernat, who contracted the coronavirus during the Ligue 1 winter break, is no longer on the list, after obtaining two negative tests on Monday and Tuesday, the club said.

The Spanish defender will resume training on Wednesday.

PSG is not alone in facing numerous positive tests following an increase in infections in France after the arrival of the Omicron variant.

Several Ligue 1 teams have been hit including Bordeaux, Lorient, Angers and Lille.

Sunday’s match between Angers and Saint-Etienne has already been postponed while Friday’s meeting between Bordeaux and Marseille is under threat.

AFP

Danilo Joins Messi Among PSG COVID-19 Cases

(FILES) This file photo taken on October 30, 2021 shows Paris Saint-Germain’s Portuguese midfielder Danilo Pereira passing the ball during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and LOSC Lille at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Danilo became the fifth Paris Saint Germain player to test positive for Covid-19 and will miss the French Cup match with Vannes later on Monday, the club said.

The 30-year-old Portuguese international midfielder joins Lionel Messi and other team-mates in self-isolating as the Omicron variant shows little sign of loosening its grip.

Messi, Juan Bernat, Sergio Rico and youngster Nathan Bitumazala were revealed to have tested positive on Sunday.

Their enforced absence has prompted PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino to call on South American players who only resumed training on Sunday for the clash with fourth division Vannes.

Marquinhos and Messi’s fellow Argentinians Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi are among those who could get a run out.

READ ALSO: India Begins Vaccinating Teens As Omicron Fears Rise

Home team Vannes are counting the cost of the French government’s newly introduced crowd restrictions on Monday with 5,000 spectators only permitted at outdoor events.

Vannes had been hoping for a 9,600 sell-out and according to their president Maxime Ray are set to miss out on revenue of 250,000 euros ($282,000).

“We are missing out on what is a fortune to us,” he said last week.