PARIS — Although Kylian Mbappe is considered a rising star, he is again set to be left out of Monaco's team for Friday's trip to Metz.
He was dropped on club orders last weekend, and another omission will further fuel speculation that he is on the verge of joining Paris Saint-Germain.
Defending champion Monaco has been fending off huge offers for the 18-year-old Mbappe — valued at about 160 million euros ($187 million) — and especially does not want to sell to PSG. But Mbappe, who grew up in the Paris region, is reportedly desperate to play alongside Brazil striker Neymar, who recently joined PSG from Barcelona for a world record 222 million euros ($262 million).
That would give PSG unprecedented status as owners of the world's two most expensive players in a side with several others that cost 40 million euros ($47 million) or more. Yet time is fast running out for PSG to sign Mbappe before the transfer window closes this month.
To realistically do so, PSG must offload players to balance the books in light of financial fair play regulations.
Midfielder Blaise Matuidi, a stalwart for the past six seasons and a massive presence in the dressing room, is on the verge of completing a move to Italian champion Juventus for 20 million euros ($23.4 million).
But PSG still needs to sell more. However, there have been limited offers for defensive midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak and winger Hatem Ben Arfa, who both joined last season. Ben Arfa is at odds with the club and seemingly happy to fight it out, rather than go elsewhere. Reportedly, he has turned down a double-your-wages offer from Turkish side Fenerbahce and an even bigger one from a club in China.
Mbappe's desire to move is causing friction at Monaco, which has already sold five players from the side that reached the Champions League semifinals last season. It might actually cause a headache for coach Unai Emery at PSG, too, if he joins.
With Neymar playing on the left of a front three, Edinson Cavani is playing through the middle as PSG's central striker. He scored 49 goals in all competitions last season.
Even though Neymar often occupies central positions, he is best suited doing so when cutting in from the left, rather than converting into a centre forward — particularly at Cavani's expense. Having both scored in last weekend's 3-0 win at Guingamp , they will be confident of adding more against Toulouse on Sunday.
With their places seemingly set, that leaves a space on the right flank for Mbappe in a menacing attacking lineup worth 450 million euros ($527 million) that would be the envy of Europe.
But what happens, then, to wingers Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler?
Di Maria cost more than 60 million euros ($70 million) when he joined from Manchester United two years ago, and the technical Draxler arrived from Wolfsburg in January. They were PSG's best players in the second part of last season, along with Cavani.
But Mbappe is not leaving the French champions, or turning down Real Madrid, to sit on the bench in Paris. Likewise, why should Di Maria — one of the most skilful wingers in the world and still in his prime at 29 years old — or Draxler, who only just joined, accept a substitute's role?
Big names rarely do.
Di Maria was unhappy when left out during the first part of last season, hitting form only when he finally took the place of Lucas on the right.
The 23-year-old Draxler joined to be part of a PSG project designed to conquer European soccer, and scored several good goals in a bright star on the left flank. Telling him now that he's no longer wanted after only eight months would seem foolhardy, while selling both players to raise funds to sign Mbappe would also severely dent PSG's strength in depth.
Although PSG's owners would secure another huge coup in signing Mbappe, it might prove more trouble than it's worth.
Monaco should also think hard before selling again.
Coping without Mbappe over the course of a domestic season and in the Champions League, particularly if striker Radamel Falcao gets injured, might prove too tough to handle.
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Jerome Pugmire is at www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire