PSG forward Neymar trains alone because of viral infection as talks over his future continue
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain coach Luis Enrique still hopes Kylian Mbappé will stay at the club despite an ongoing transfer standoff, but wouldn’t comment on Neymar’s future as the Brazil forward moves closer to a possible departure.
Neither Mbappé nor Neymar took part in PSG's training session on Friday, parts of which were open to the media. The club said Neymar trained alone indoors away from his teammates because of a viral infection.
Mbappé has trained apart from PSG’s first-team regulars all week after making it clear he wants to play out the final season of his contract and leave as a free agent next year. PSG said it wants to sell him now if he will not extend his contract.
Enrique was naming his squad later for Saturday’s home game against Lorient, with PSG expected to begin its title defense without Mbappé.
The France forward has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid, which twice failed with bids to sign him before, but Enrique hopes a solution can be found again.
“This situation has existed before, a positive solution was found with the club. I hope an agreement is reached, which is something I would like,” Enrique said at a news conference, through a translator. “But the club is above everything, the coach, the players.”
Enrique would not answer a follow-up question on Mbappé's future.
“I am not going to say anything else, the first answer expressed my opinion clearly,” he said.
But Neymar is headed for an exit from PSG.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday that talks are moving toward Neymar leaving the club this month.
The 31-year-old Brazil international was widely reported to have told PSG this week he wants to leave. He has been linked with a return to Barcelona, which sold him to PSG for a world-record fee of 222 million euros ($244 million) in 2017.
Enrique said he has spoken with both Neymar and midfielder Marco Verratti, who has been linked with a move to the lucrative Saudi Arabian league.
“Regarding Marco and Neymar, I’m used to keeping conversations private. I will not talk about what I said to them and what they said to me,” Enrique said. "(But) I ask you to pay attention to my actions. My decisions will clearly express my views."
PSG unveiled a new sponsor on Friday, but Mbappé, Neymar and Verratti were not among the five featured players promoting it online.
With PSG having already lost Lionel Messi to Inter Miami and facing the possibility of playing without any of its three superstars from last season, the club may need to recruit quickly.
“We’re open to anything that will improve the squad,” Enrique said. “We’re paying attention to what’s happening in every position. The transfer market is difficult for everyone, not just PSG.”
PSG is close to signing France winger Ousmane Dembélé from Barcelona.
“He is not a PSG player yet,” Enrique said, smiling. “He is 99 percent, but not 100 percent.”
PSG has never won the Champions League despite massive investment since Qatari owners QSI took charge 12 years ago, reaching the final just once in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. PSG has been eliminated from the round of 16 for the past two seasons, where an ongoing lack of teamwork and intensity at the highest level were glaringly exposed.
“What I want is 95 minutes, 100 minutes of being competitive, whether that’s in the (French) league or the Champions League,” Enrique said. “I don’t want 10 minutes of folly. I want an attacking game, I want pressing. I want to be on top of the game from the first minute to the last.”
The 53-year-old Enrique had been without a job since Spain’s elimination from the World Cup last year. He pledged to keep the same attacking philosophy that made his reputation at Barca, where he won the treble in 2015.
That superb attack featured Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, but Enrique doesn't yet know who'll be lining up for PSG.
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