Paris Saint-Germain 2018-19: Mbappe’s continued rise shows Neymar is now disposable

Kylian Mbappe will be the top goalscorer in Ligue 1 this season and his continued development could pave the way for Neymar’s sale.

Paris Saint-Germain winning the Ligue 1 title again was hardly a surprise given their riches but Kylian Mbappe’s incredible performances will be food for thought given the constant transfer speculation surrounding Neymar.

Real Madrid continue to be linked with a sensational move for the Brazil forward, who became the most expensive player in football history when he joined PSG from Barca in a deal worth €222million.

PSG have regularly hit out at suggestions Neymar could be sold, denying the club needs to raise funds in order to ensure Financial Fair Play rules are not broken due to their continued lavish spending.

But with Neymar missing a chunk of this season due to another foot injury – and Edinson Cavani also being sidelined at the same time – Mbappe has shown there could be another route forward.

 

Mbappe has been hailed as the new Pele by the great man himself and the 20-year-old’s superb form in a season that followed him winning the World Cup with France shows the comparison may not be overly outlandish.

With 27 goals in Ligue 1 in 2018-19, Mbappe is the top scorer in the French top flight by a huge margin, while he has also added four in the Champions League and two more in the Coupe de France.

One of those European strikes came away to Manchester United in the opening leg of a last-16 tie in February that offered Thomas Tuchel a possible inkling into the future of PSG’s front line.

Mbappe was a constant menace, scoring the second in a 2-0 win at Old Trafford with a speedy run and smart finish that gave David de Gea no chance.

 

And with Neymar and Cavani both out it was former United winger Angel Di Maria who proved the main creative threat for the visitors on that day, assisting Presnel Kimpembe’s opener and freeing Mbappe for the second.

Di Maria has often been unfairly regarded as the least heralded member of PSG’s fantastic four forwards but the reality is this season he has usually been more effective than Neymar, regardless of the Brazilian’s injury issues.

PSG’s excellent display at United was built on tactical diligence and their wide attackers working hard to track runners, a job Neymar seems to deem below him, and although Tuchel has tried to incorporate the former Barca man as a number 10 it is an uncomfortable fit against elite opposition.

The solution therefore appears to be obvious: cash in on Neymar, give Di Maria more responsibility and allow Mbappe to become the jewel in the PSG crown.

Mbappe has proven he is ready to be the key man for his club, rather than PSG’s record scorer Cavani or Neymar, netting in seven consecutive Ligue 1 games to keep Tuchel’s men well clear of Lille atop the table.

 

It is testament to just how good Mbappe is that Neymar has not really been missed in recent weeks, although whether he could have prevented PSG’s Champions League second-leg crash against United is impossible to tell.

Madrid and Bayern Munich are among the giants expected to spend heavily on squad reinforcements ahead of 2019-20 and PSG will want to do likewise to keep pace with Europe’s elite.

But FFP ensures that even if there is effectively a bottomless pit of Qatar Sports Investments cash theoretically available to Tuchel, he cannot spend it all without risking the wrath of UEFA’s bean-counters.

If funds need to be raised, Neymar is the most obvious player to make way, with the 27-year-old as valuable now as he ever will be, while Mbappe will continue to appreciate in value assuming his development remains on track.

Tuchel has been forced to use defenders including Marquinhos and Dani Alves in midfield this season, but Neymar’s sale could enable him to build a world-class platform on which Mbappe can thrive.

 

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