Mbappe: I have never asked PSG to sign a single player

By Sports Desk June 13, 2021

Kylian Mbappe has insisted he has never asked Paris Saint-Germain to sign any players in response to recent comments made by president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

The 22-year-old's future at the Parc des Princes remains a hot topic of discussion as he is soon to enter the final year of his contract.

He did little to quell speculation earlier this week in an interview with France Football when admitting he is unsure whether PSG is the best place for him.

That comes on the back of rumours that Mbappe is stalling on signing a new contract until more high-profile signings are made by last season's Ligue 1 runners-up.

In response to that, Al-Khelaifi stated earlier this week "it is not possible" for Mbappe to have any say over the club's recruitment and that he will not be sold in the current transfer window.

When asked about those comments at a news conference while on France duty, Mbappe denied ever discussing transfer targets with Al-Khelaifi or director Leonardo.

"I have never asked for a single player from the president or Leonardo. I am a simple football player," he told reporters on Sunday ahead of France's Euro 2020 opener against Germany.

"But I'm here to represent France – the team is the most important thing. I don't want to disrupt the group."

Mbappe is coming off the back of another impressive campaign for PSG in which he scored 42 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions, an average of one every 88.62 minutes.

In Europe's top five leagues, only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (48) scored more goals in all competitions than Mbappe in 2020-21.

Mbappe scored at a greater rate than his expected goals (xG) number, which averaged out at 34.14, while also providing 11 assists.

He is expected to start France's Group F showdown with Germany at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday.

Les Blues are taking part in their 10th European Championship finals, and their eighth in a row, last failing to make the competition in 1988.

Only Germany and Spain (three each) have won more European Championships than the two won by France in 1984 and 2000.

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    Eddie Howe believes Anthony Gordon will be a hit with the Newcastle United supporters and confirmed Jonjo Shelvey is in the process of leaving the club.

    Gordon joined Newcastle from struggling Everton over the weekend.

    Newcastle have reportedly paid an initial £40million for the 21-year-old, with an additional £5m due in add-ons.

    Gordon handed in a transfer request at Everton last week, having missed three training sessions, though Howe has no concerns over the winger's attitude.

    "He'll give us a lot," Howe said in a press conference ahead of Tuesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Southampton.

    "He's a young player with huge potential to have a big impact on our season.

    "Very quick, dynamic. He's versatile and can play on both sides. The best is yet to come from him. I've got no doubts about his character. He is fiercely determined and ambitious.

    "I believe he will fit our style of play. He is an incredible athlete and has the ability to run box-to-box at very high speed.

    "I think he has the athletic durability that we want in our wide players. He has the passion that the fans will feed off but Anthony will have to earn that support."

    Gordon's fiery side was on show when Everton lost at St James' Park in October, clashing with Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schar and Nick Pope.

    "It's interesting looking back at the footage, I like that he didn't stand down that day. He was aggressive," Howe added.

    "The supporters and his team-mates will grow to love that about him."

    While Gordon has bolstered Newcastle's attacking options, Howe is set to lose midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who is on the verge of following Chris Wood to Nottingham Forest.

    "Jonjo has had injuries this season and certainly I would not want to lose him," Howe said of the former Liverpool midfielder.

    "I have to understand again, similar to Chris Wood, the player's wishes with his contract coming to an end.

    "It will be very difficult to keep Jonjo currently, with where he wants his career to go. We can keep players who want to leave – there is nothing to say that every player that wants to leave you have to let go.

    "But you have to take every situation independently and try to judge everything, judge what is best for him and the club.

    "This is a very difficult situation. From a footballing perspective, I definitely want to keep Jonjo, I rate him highly. Jonjo I believe is talking to Nottingham Forest, I don't know what stage that is at."

    Newcastle have been linked with a loan move for Sheffield United's Sander Berge and Howe confirmed he wants a replacement for Shelvey, though acknowledged it would be "very difficult" to sign another player on a permanent basis in the final two days of the window.

  • Fifteen years on from Portsmouth stunner, was Ronaldo ever a great free-kick taker? Fifteen years on from Portsmouth stunner, was Ronaldo ever a great free-kick taker?

    Cristiano Ronaldo has scored many famous goals.

    Undoubtedly, though, one of his most celebrated strikes came 15 years ago, on January 30, 2008.

    On a winter evening at Old Trafford, Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth rocked up in fine form on the road, having won seven of their 12 away games in the Premier League.

    Yet Ronaldo, in the midst of a 31-goal season in the top tier, was the difference. 

    Having put Manchester United ahead in the 10th minute, Ronaldo stepped up, just under 30 yards out from goal, three minutes later.

    His free-kick, taken in what would become his trademark style, went up, over the wall and swerved remarkably into the right-hand corner. David James, the Portsmouth goalkeeper, had no chance.

    That goal is often thought of as the typical Ronaldo free-kick. Power, panache and pinpoint accuracy.

    But is Ronaldo actually as good as a free-kick taker as that goal might suggest? Using Opta data, Stats Perform has taken a look.

    Quantity, not quality?

    Since that goal against Portsmouth up until the day his second spell at United ended (November 23, 2022), Ronaldo had more shots from direct free-kicks than any other player in Europe's top five leagues.

    Of the 645 shots Ronaldo had, 41 resulted in a goal. That is from 700 club games, across stints at United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

    On the face of it, that goal tally does not stand out as particularly impressive, at least given the fact that Ronaldo netted 619 times in total.

    Yet he is behind only Lionel Messi (who else?) when it comes to goals from direct free-kicks, with the Barcelona great scoring on 51 occasions from such situations.

    That gives Messi an 8.1 per cent conversion rate from free-kicks in that timeframe, in contrast to Ronaldo's 6.3 per cent.

     

    Naturally, given their status in the game, Ronaldo and Messi will almost always pull rank when it comes to set-pieces, especially at a free-kick in a dangerous position.

    Miralem Pjanic, who ranks third for direct free-kick goals and was a club-mate of both players at Barca and Juve respectively, boasts better conversion rate than either (nine per cent).

    Neymar's 13 goals from 147 attempts gives him an 8.8 per cent success rate, while James Ward-Prowse's 12 per cent (15 from 125, though this figure of course does not account for his strike against Everton earlier in January) is close to double what Ronaldo managed.

    Indeed, when ranked against players from Europe's big five leagues that scored 10 or more direct free-kicks between January 31, 2008 and November 23, 2022, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dani Parejo had lower conversion rates than Ronaldo.

    Club by club

    So, having established that Ronaldo's free-kick finishing was somewhat erratic following that stunner against Portsmouth, let's check on how he stacked up at each club.

    Across his career in Europe's top five leagues, Ronaldo netted 48 free-kicks in all competitions, from 782 shots (6.1 per cent).

     

    Thirteen of those goals came at United, with five each in his final two seasons of his first spell at the club.

    Indeed, Ronaldo's peak when it came to free-kicks was definitely between the 2007-08 season and the 2013-14 campaign, when he scored 35 times from that type of dead-ball situation.

    His best single season tally was six, in the 2009-10 season – his first at Madrid.

    From 2014-15 onwards he did not manage more than three free-kick goals during a season, while he scored only twice from 86 such attempts while at Juve, and managed no goals from four free-kicks in his second stint at United.

    One of the greats?

    As well as his effort against Portsmouth, Ronaldo has many other memorable free-kicks in the bank.

    His stunning, 40-yard strike against Arsenal in the 2009 Champions League semi-final; a mesmerising hit from even further out in a Madrid derby in 2012; and who can forget that spellbinding, hat-trick sealing effort that secured a last-gasp draw for Portugal against Spain in a 3-3 thriller at the 2018 World Cup.

    Ronaldo might have gone off the boil from dead balls since the halcyon days either side of his move from Manchester to Madrid, yet there's no doubting that when he hits them true, there's not much any goalkeeper can do.

    While he may not go down as one of the greatest free-kick takers in history statistically, he has definitely been a scorer of some great free-kicks down the years.

    And who knows, maybe there'll be more to come in Saudi Arabia.

  • Antetokounmpo not taking anything for granted after sixth career 50-point game Antetokounmpo not taking anything for granted after sixth career 50-point game

    Giannis Antetokounmpo was determined to reach 50 points as he piled on 12 in the last four minutes of the Milwaukee Bucks' 135-110 home win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

    It was the sixth 50-point performance of Antetokounmpo's career, and after coming into the season with four, he has managed two this month following his career-high 55 against the Washington Wizards on January 3.

    He shot a blistering 20-of-26 from the field – including 16 of Milwaukee's first 21 points – adding 13 rebounds and four assists, and while he could have settled for a strong effort and a comfortable win, he decided to make it a memorable night down the stretch.

    Sitting on 38 points with 3:51 remaining, Antetokounmpo hit four free throws and a layup to reach 44, before closing the game with back-to-back three-pointers to bring up his 50.

    Speaking after the victory, the two-time MVP and 2021 NBA Finals MVP said these are opportunities you do not want to waste.

    "I knew that if I was able to get the rebound, I was going to shoot," he said. "It doesn't always work out, but tonight it did. 

    "I didn't hesitate at all. I was able to get my legs under my shot, stayed there, and just watched the ball go in.

    "It's one of those moments you can never take for granted because you never know when you're going to have those moments again."

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    "We might as well do it in front of everybody," Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said. "It's really just to show how much we appreciate him. For him to go out there and do that is amazing, no matter how many times you score 50 points.

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    "Tonight, I think 50 on 26 shots is impressive," he said. "Just everything he did, his aggressiveness, a couple threes, especially late, but he's shooting it well. 

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    The Bucks improved their record to 33-17, leaving them third in the Eastern Conference and with the fourth-best record overall, while the Pelicans slipped to 26-25 after their eighth consecutive loss as they battle a number of key injuries.

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