Less than five months after Kylian Mbappe signed a new three-year contract to supposedly end the uncertainty about his future, Paris Saint-Germain are once again facing up to the possibility of losing the France superstar.
The Qatar-owned club sit top of Ligue 1 and their Champions League group, but all is not well in the French capital with a raft of reasons given for Mbappe reportedly wanting away.
It has completely overshadowed PSG’s build-up to Sunday’s game against bitter rivals Marseille.
The speculation started on Tuesday, hours before Christophe Galtier’s team hosted Benfica in the Champions League, with Spanish sports daily Marca and several French media reporting that Mbappe wants to leave as early as the January transfer window.
Mbappe has in recent weeks let it be known publicly that he is unhappy with the position he has been asked to play in new coach Galtier’s system, pointing out after playing for France last month that he has “much more freedom” playing for his country.
Mbappe still scored his 12th goal of the season for PSG as they drew 1-1 with Benfica, but it is believed he is disappointed the club did not sign a top-class centre-forward in the close season –- for example Robert Lewandowski, who went to Barcelona.
PSG’s football advisor Luis Campos told Canal Plus that Mbappe had “never spoken to me about leaving in January”.
However, that was before the investigative website Mediapart reported on Wednesday that an agency called Digital Big Brother (DBB) had worked on behalf of PSG to deploy a series of Twitter accounts with the task of boosting the club’s image.
The work involved going after a number of targets earmarked by the club, including a supporter slapped by Neymar after PSG lost the 2019 French Cup final and a woman who accused the Brazilian of raping her.
But there were also internal targets, such as Adrien Rabiot –- now with Juventus –- and Mbappe himself.
“We worked for PSG. It bothers us for our reputation that PSG deny working with us,” Frederic Geldhof, who worked for a subsidiary of DBB called UReputation, told AFP.
PSG have “firmly” denied the allegations that they asked the agency to work on their behalf.
“We were doing everything to get him to extend his contract. We were not going to secretly troll him,” one source, formerly connected to the PSG board, told AFP of the claims Mbappe was targeted.
The affair carries similarities to the ‘Barcagate’ scandal which saw Barcelona allegedly hire a company to smear opponents of the club’s board on social media.
It may do little to help the relationship between PSG and their biggest star, even if there is surely little prospect of the club agreeing to sell Mbappe in the January transfer window.
One to watch: Laurent Blanc
Over six years after he last coached in Europe, Blanc is back on a Ligue 1 bench this weekend as he takes charge of Lyon for the first time against Rennes. The 56-year-old replaces the sacked Peter Bosz.
He arrives with Lyon languishing in ninth place in the table, already nine points adrift of the Champions League places. Blanc coached PSG from 2013 to 2016, winning three straight Ligue 1 titles. His only coaching job since then came at Al Rayyan in Qatar, where he spent a year before departing in February.
4 – Four clubs in Ligue 1 have changed their coach in just the last week. Blanc at Lyon has started a trend, with strugglers Brest, Auxerre and Reims also replacing their manager in recent days.
6 – Lorient are on a club record run of six straight top-flight wins. They will go top of the table, at least for 24 hours, if they beat Reims on Saturday.
19 – PSG are on a 19-game unbeaten run in the league before facing Marseille, who have won just one of the last 25 meetings of the great rivals.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Strasbourg v Lille (1900)
Lens v Reims (1500), Lens v Montpellier (1900)
Toulouse v Angers (1100), Auxerre v Nice, Nantes v Brest, Rennes v Lyon, Troyes v Ajaccio (all 1300), Monaco v Clermont (1505), Paris Saint-Germain v Marseille (1845)