Originally published on the Daily Briefing thedailybriefing.io
A few eyebrows were raised by Luis Enrique criticising Kylian Mbappe after he scored a hat-trick against Reims, with the PSG manager admitting he still wasn’t happy with the player, demanding more from him despite his goal-scoring heroics.
There is, however, nothing to read into after Enrique’s recent comments regarding Mbappe. It is no secret that the Spanish tactician would like to see his French superstar working harder for the team and he is not the first PSG boss to want that.
It has been a funny period for Mbappe on the pitch with his form blowing hot and cold, but his future is far from set in stone at present. It is unlikely that we will see any major development on that front before the end of 2023 with much of Mbappe’s decision likely to hinge upon how PSG fare in the Champions League this term.
There have been signs of progress under Luis Enrique and the post-November internationals run up until the winter break could prove to an important period in terms of how Mbappe and PSG’s outlook is come early 2024. Overall, though, the players are largely happy with PSG’s new direction and the fact that the Spaniard is able to offer constructive criticism of his star player so publicly shows how things are changing at Parc des Princes compared with the former player power, which dictated that individuals came before the collective and the club.
Presnel Kimpembe is expected to return to action before the end of this year after a lengthy injury layoff. Assuming that he returns to full form and fitness, the youth academy graduate is a player that PSG will want to keep beyond 2024, despite him currently being close to the end of his contract and linked with Barcelona by some outlets.
My personal feeling based on Kimpembe’s attachment to the club but also Marquinhos’ increasingly complicated situation in terms of form and questionable leadership is that a full recovery for the Frenchman could see PSG fielding offers for the Brazilian from next summer. Who Luis Enrique chooses to pair or whether he goes with three central defenders over the second half of the campaign will be very interesting to see.
We’ve seen a big-name French manager sacked this week as Rudi Garcia was shown the door by Napoli after a poor start to the season. Garcia was a surprise appointment as Napoli boss in the first place, although Walter Mazzarri being chosen as his replacement is arguably an even bigger shock.
Following in Luciano Spalletti’s footsteps was always going to be a tough ask after last season’s memorable Serie A title triumph, but there is a growing feeling within the game that Garcia is yesterday’s man. That will not stop him getting another job in France with a few decent roles potentially available in the coming weeks, but he is unlikely to attract interest from a top club right now.
Former Marseille boss Igor Tudor was also linked with the position at Napoli, though he ended up being overlooked, which was a bit of a surprise, but that sounds more likely that decision owed to the fact that Tudor was not so keen on such a short posting, with Mazzarri only taking a contract until the end of the season.
Interestingly, Tudor’s replacement in Marseille – Marcelino – is already back in work with Villarreal. Tudor is unlikely to resurface in France, but his stock remains high in Italy despite not landing a tricky Napoli gig.
There has been some welcome good news for Christopher Nkunku – one of France’s most exciting talents who has been prevented from getting started at Chelsea so far due to injury, though he’s now closing in on a return to the team.
I suspect that he will have a fairly immediate impact in front of goal as Chelsea seek to make a push for a European qualification spot over the second half the season. The Blues need to be wary of recurring injury issues with their summer signing, but he undoubtedly has the quality to improve this team once he finally returns to action.
Of course, we’ve seen real improvement from Nicolas Jackson of late, so that might have led some to question if Nkunku would get straight back into the team, but it’s important to remember how eager Chelsea were to get this deal done, and wrapped up early last year, so I’m confident he remains a key part of Pochettino’s project.