I know him well, that's it – Zidane leaving Mbappe to make own decision on future

By Sports Desk April 09, 2021

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is happy to leave Kylian Mbappe to make his own decision on his future amid talk of a possible move to Spain.

The Paris Saint-Germain star scored twice in a 3-2 win away to Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final this week.

Following that performance, reports in Spain suggested Mbappe has now informed PSG he will not be signing a new contract and is determined to become a Madrid player before next season.

The France international, who is said to be keen to work under compatriot Zidane, has scored 32 goals and provided nine assists this season and is behind only Harry Kane (45) and Robert Lewandowski (50) for direct goal involvements for players in Europe's top-five leagues this season.

Aside from Karim Benzema, who has 24 goals and six assists this term, few Madrid players have offered persistent goal threats, with none of Benzema's team-mates having scored more than six times in 2020-21.

Interest in Mbappe therefore comes as little surprise, but Zidane, speaking ahead of Saturday's LaLiga showdown with Barcelona, was not prepared to discuss a possible deal in detail.

"I know him and we know him well. That's it. He's not my player and I can't speak about anything," Zidane said.

"Kylian is a great player and we'll see what he wants to do in the future, but it's not my concern."

With Eden Hazard still out injured and the Mbappe rumours continuing, much of the focus on Saturday will be on Madrid forward Vinicius Junior.

The Brazilian produced arguably his best performance for the club on Tuesday, scoring twice in the 3-1 Champions League quarter-final first-leg win over Liverpool.

Zidane is confident in the 20-year-old as he aims for a victory that will lift Madrid above Barca and onto the coattails of league leaders Atletico Madrid.

"He's really well, working, he's very young and we have to keep calm with him. It's making me happy because there's a lot of noise but he is focused on what he has to do," Zidane said.

"We have Eden who, at the moment, is not available but we have Vini and we're happy with him.

"We've had a lot of complications this year with injuries and the truth is we've not liked it, but it's a very big squad where the players are always committed and want to play and that's the most important thing.

"Atletico have the advantage because they're first. You say who is going to win and it's a very competitive league, a very good league and all the teams can win, so until the end, we don't know who will do it. I don't know how many points are left, but there are many.

"I'm not thinking [if we lose, we can't win the league]. We'll see at the end of the game, but we're going to give everything and we're positive and we want to play a great game of football."

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    France boss Didier Deschamps dismissed suggestions striker Kylian Mbappe has an ego, and denied the Paris Saint-Germain star would influence his team selection for Wednesday's game against Tunisia.

    Les Bleus have already secured their place in the knockout stage following wins over Australia and Denmark, meaning Deschamps is set to make several changes to his side for the Group D match at Education City Stadium.

    Deschamps was not willing to go into detail on his starting XI but swatted aside a question implying Mbappe's ego would mean he'd demand to start.

    "His fitness is fine so we don't need to manage that, so you are saying we have to manage his ego?" he said.

    "What do you know about that? I know but you don't. Kylian doesn't have a big ego, that's not true.

    "He's a key player but he's a team player. Of course, he's a star but he's not 18 years old anymore, he's more experienced.

    "He wants to play tomorrow but not all of them can start the match, that's normal.

    "You can imagine lots of things but I have a lot of factors to take into account. And my information is first hand, straight from the horse's mouth."

    Tunisia must beat France and hope Denmark avoid defeat by Australia to be in contention to qualify, and Deschamps knows he has to balance his squad's needs with the integrity of the competition.

    He added: "We are going through so we don't need to go all out for the victory, and it looks like we are going to win the group.

    "But this is a World Cup game against an opponent that needs a result go through, and Australia and Denmark are also playing for their qualification. We will try to get the best result possible.

    "I am going to have to manage the squad, I have a lot of things to take into account. I have some more time to make my decision - you will find out tomorrow - but yes, there will be changes, I just can't tell you how many."

    There were reports on Monday that Deschamps' injury-hit squad may be boosted by the return of striker Karim Benzema, who sustained a recurrence of a thigh problem on the eve of the tournament, but has remained on France's squad list.

    Benzema has left Qatar to receive treatment but Les Bleus' boss was baffled by talk of an imminent comeback for the Ballon d'Or winner.

    "I am not sure, that's not something I am thinking about," he said. "Who is saying that?

    "I talked to Karim after he left the squad but you know the situation, you know how long it will take him to recover. It is up to you if you want to speculate and imagine scenarios, that's not what I am focusing on at the moment."

  • Rumour Has It: Chelsea on verge of finalising £52m Nkunku deal after reaching Leipzig agreement Rumour Has It: Chelsea on verge of finalising £52m Nkunku deal after reaching Leipzig agreement

    Christopher Nkunku has long been inked with Chelsea, with reports he had undergone a medical in September.

    The 25-year-old Frenchman netted 20 goals in the Bundesliga last season and already has 12 this term.

    The Blues are undergoing a period of change under owner Todd Boehly and new head coach Graham Potter – and could be about to land a big-name target.

     

    TOP STORY - NKUNKU'S CHELSEA DEAL SET TO BE SIGNED

    Chelsea are on the cusp of finalising the deal for RB Leipzig forward Nkunku with contracts set to be signed, reports Fabrizio Romano.

    The Blues have reached an agreement with Nkunku's German club Leipzig for more than £52million (€60m).

    Nkunku, who was ruled out of the World Cup earlier this month due to a knee injury, will apparently pen a long-term deal starting from June 2023.

    ROUND-UP

    - ESPN has reported that  Lionel Messi has not agreed to a deal to join Inter Miami from Paris Saint-Germain following reports that he is on the verge of a deal with the Major League Soccer club.

    Chelsea are reportedly not willing to let Christian Pulisic depart on loan in January, amid links with Premier League trio Manchester United, Newcastle United and Arsenal. The Blues would prefer a permanent deal for the United States international.

    - Sky Sport's Florian Plettenberg claims RB Leipzig's Konrad Laimer has reached a verbal agreement to join Bayern Munich at the end of this season, with a view to a long-term deal until 2027.

    Edin Dzeko is set to earn a new one-year deal with Inter, according to Gazzetta. But the 36-year-old must accept a pay cut, from about €5.5m to €3m per season (plus bonuses).

    - Ecuador international midfielder Moises Caicedo, who is currently on Brighton and Hove Albion's books, is drawing interest from Manchester United, claims Sky Germany.

    - Fabrizio Romano reports Brighton are in talks with Molde to sign 19-year-old Ivorian striker David Datro Fofana. The Norwegian club want more than €10m (£8.6m) for him.

  • Uruguay unlikely to shift Real Madrid star Valverde forward after consecutive scoreless outings Uruguay unlikely to shift Real Madrid star Valverde forward after consecutive scoreless outings

    Uruguay head coach Diego Alonso believes his Real Madrid star Federico Valverde is best suited as a defensive midfielder, but that the team will need to perform better as a whole to allow him to "shine more".

    Alonso's comments came after Monday's disappointing 2-0 loss to Portugal, leaving Uruguay alongside Mexico and Tunisia as the only teams without a goal through two matches.

    Following their failure to score in their 0-0 opener against South Korea, Uruguay were well-handled by the Portuguese, controlling only 40 per cent of the possession, although they only narrowly trailed in expected goals 1.33 to 1.27.

    Not short on talent, Uruguay fielded a starting XI that included Liverpool's Darwin Nunez and 135-cap veteran Edinson Cavani up front, while Tottenham's Rodrigo Betancur partnered Valverde in midfield.

    Having played both in central midfield and on the wing for Madrid, Valverde was deployed in the engine room against Portugal, and despite their desperation for goals, Alonso made it clear that is where he feels the 24-year-old is most valuable.

    "I think Federico has played full matches with us in the qualifying round," he said. "He’s played in the same position, even playing higher up. 

    "I think he played as a defensive midfielder with a second pivot together with Bentancur. It's the same position that you saw today. He was even playing higher up, or as a wide midfielder. 

    "I think his main skill is playing through the central lanes. With us, he's showed a great performance in that position.

    "When you talk about shooting, I think he shot once [against Korea], it just missed the top corner. He was unlucky he couldn't score. 

    "For us, he's an important player with many skills. When the team plays better, I'm sure he will shine more."

    Despite their lack of potency going forward, Uruguay still have a chance to advance to the knockout stage if they can defeat Ghana in their final Group H fixture – a rematch from 2010's quarter-final where Uruguay advanced on penalties.

    "We are looking for victory against Ghana, there is no doubt about it," Alonso said. "If we have to make slight modifications, that is what we'll do. 

    "We will provide a team all the weapons we have at hand, so I have full trust in my players. I'm sure the next game will be hard, but we will go all out so that we have a victory and we qualify.

    "We are talking about qualifying or not qualifying. It was very important back in [2010], but this is a different situation. It will be a crucial game, but has nothing to do with what happened 12 years ago.

    "We need to feel free and move freely as we played during the second half against Korea. We need to gamble more and push forward, playing in between the lines and going for one-on-ones on the sides. 

    "Sometimes, opponents also play, they stop you, they know which are your main skills and they try to counter your play. But we need to continue trusting our team, our skills, the players we have, and to also give them trust to develop their game."

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