Paris Saint-Germain's Achraf Hakimi hailed team-mate Kylian Mbappe as "one of the best in the world" and hopes the forward will stay at the club.

However, the Morocco international said he will support Mbappe in whatever decision he makes at the end of the season, with the striker's contract set to expire in June.

Across all competitions, Mbappe has recorded 31 goals and 18 assists – both club-highs – in 39 appearances this season as PSG close on the Ligue 1 title.

The club suffered a disappointing Champions League exit to Real Madrid last month, however, furthering speculation that Mbappe could swap Paris for Los Blancos when his deal expires.

Hakimi is desperate to see Mbappe extend his five-year stay in the French capital.

"Mbappe is one of the best in the world and he is my friend," Hakimi told Telefoot. 

"I want him to stay here, he knows. He will decide what he thinks is best for his career, and I will support him."

Holding a 12-point lead at the top of Ligue 1, PSG can take a huge step towards claiming an eighth league title in 10 years when they face second-placed Marseille in Sunday's Classique, and Hakimi highlighted the importance of winning that clash to appease the club's disgruntled fans.

Indeed, despite PSG's last 11 Ligue 1 goals being scored by the brilliant attacking trio of Mbappe, Lionel Messi, and Neymar, the latter duo have faced jeers from their own supporters since the Parisians' 3-2 aggregate defeat to Madrid.

"I know there is a particular expectation and a lot of rivalry [between PSG and Marseille]," Hakimi added. "I experienced it the first time at the Velodrome [a 0-0 draw in October]. It is a game that can decide the fate of the championship. 

"Our fans deserve this victory and this tenth league title [in the club's history]. We have had a very bad few weeks. 

"It's hard when your fans don't support you. Winning against Marseille is the best we can do to keep them cheering us on until the end of the season."

Over a month has passed since the team's Champions League collapse at the Santiago Bernabeu, where a Karim Benzema hat-trick eliminated PSG after Mbappe had netted once in either leg, but Hakimi says he still cannot explain their European exit.

"It is difficult to realise that we are out of the Champions League," he added. "We had the mechanisms to get ahead. The truth is that I cannot explain it. Even today, when I think about it, I don't understand it. I understand that the fans are sad, so are we. 

"At this level, small details make the difference, we have to correct them next year. That's what will make us champions."

PSG enter Sunday's crucial clash with Marseille having lost just one of their last 19 Ligue 1 meetings with their rivals, recording 14 wins during that run and keeping clean sheets in five of the previous seven.

Paris Saint-Germain right-back Achraf Hakimi believes Real Madrid "did not want to bet" on him before he left the Santiago Bernabeu for Inter in 2020.

The Morocco international moved to San Siro on a permanent deal having spent two years on loan at Borussia Dortmund for a fee in the region of €40million, before another big-money switch to PSG a year later for around €68m.

Hakimi will face his old club in the Champions League on Tuesday when Madrid visit Parc des Princes for the first leg of their round-of-16 tie, and he insists that despite only making nine LaLiga appearances for Los Blancos, he has no ill feelings towards them.

Speaking in an interview with Marca ahead of the game in Paris, Hakimi said: "It is a nice game to play and as you know it is a team I have in my heart for everything they have given me. They made me as a person and as a player, and they made me learn. We are going to prepare very well for the match."

When asked why he left the Spanish giants, he replied: "It is true that when you join Madrid for the first time you come from playing for the Castilla and it is normal that the club does not bet on you so much because you are a young player. 

"But then when I left for Dortmund, I went on loan and had two great seasons and I had to come back and decide. And then Madrid, I think, were still not betting on me, although I was able to keep playing at a high level. 

"And then when I left for Inter after being transferred there was also a purchase option for Madrid and they didn't execute it either, so I think Madrid didn't want to bet as much on me as other clubs. And I'm happy because I think these clubs were not wrong to bet on me."

The 23-year-old has had six goal involvements (three goals and three assists) in 27 appearances in all competitions this season for Mauricio Pochettino's side, and says he has settled well in Paris.

"The truth is that I feel very comfortable, as though at home. The people have received me very well, the club, the fans... Even before I came, I could already feel the affection, the club bet on me and made great efforts.

"The coach too, we had quite a few conversations and he gave me his confidence. The players have also received me very well and tell me to always be calm and enjoy myself. That's why I also feel good with them, and I give my best."

Hakimi was also pleased to be reunited with another former Madrid player, Sergio Ramos, who joined PSG on a free transfer at the end of last season.

Ramos – who won multiple trophies in the Spanish capital, including five LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues – has only played five games for PSG due to injuries and suspension since arriving in France, but Hakimi believes he will be an important player at the club.

"We had [been together] at Real Madrid and he treated me very well despite being young and coming from the academy. We have a very good friendship," Hakimi said.

"The truth is that he surprised me that he left Real Madrid, but I'm happy to have him with us... I know he's going to make us grow a lot because he's a leader and an experienced player. He is going to be good for PSG."

The Africa Cup of Nations is heating up in the quarter-final stage, with Sunday's encounters two of the more fascinating of the round on paper.

After edging past the Ivory Coast in the round of 16 on penalties, Egypt take on Morocco where two stars of world football, Mohamed Salah and Achraf Hakimi, go head-to-head.

Senegal will play Equatorial Guinea for just the second time at the AFCON, with the latter winning the previous such game 2-1 in the group stages in 2012.

Stats Perform takes a look at both games as we get closer to the business end of this year's tournament.

 

Egypt v Morocco (15:00 GMT)

This will be the seventh AFCON encounter between these teams, with Morocco winning three of the previous six (D1 L2), although Egypt won the most recent encounter in the 2017 quarter-finals.

The Pharaohs have won each of their past four quarter-final matches at the AFCON, having progressed in just one of their previous five.

Morocco have won six of their past eight matches in this competition (D2), scoring in every game in this run, although they are looking to reach the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since finishing runners-up to Tunisia in 2004.

There have been a number of tight games at this year's tournament and that may be the case again here. Egypt have only conceded seven goals in their 20 games at the AFCON since 2010 (W14 D3 L3), keeping 14 clean sheets.

Morocco's Romain Saiss has accumulated an expected goals (xG) tally of 1.99 from his five attempts in the competition, the highest xG of any player who is yet to score this year.

One to watch: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)

The Paris Saint-Germain right-back had been having a relatively quiet AFCON up until the knockout stages, only to put in a top-quality performance to help his nation topple Malawi in the round of 16.

His excellent free-kick in the 2-1 win was just one of his five attempts at goal, four of which were on target. Hakimi had only taken three shots in total in his three group stage appearances. His partnership with Imran Louza – who made five key passes against Malawi, more than anyone else – on the right could be vital, with Salah likely occupying their team-mates on the other side.

 

Senegal v Equatorial Guinea (19:00 GMT)

It was a horrible sight to see Sadio Mane crash to the floor after a head collision with Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha in their round-of-16 tie, despite picking himself up to score the winner moments later.

Whether the Liverpool man is fit to play remains to be seen, but it could be crucial as he has scored 44 per cent of Senegal's goals (seven of 16, excluding own goals) at the AFCON since 2017, while none of his team-mates have scored more than once in this time.

Senegal have progressed from three of their past five quarter-final matches at the AFCON, while they are looking to reach the semi-finals in consecutive tournaments for the first time.

Equatorial Guinea have lost just one of their most recent five AFCON games (W2 D2), keeping four clean sheets and conceding just once.

Since the start of the 2017 tournament, Senegal have won more games (nine) and kept more clean sheets (12) than any other team.

One to watch: Saul Coco (Equatorial Guinea)

The Las Palmas defender was a rock at the back for his country in the round-of-16 clash with Mali, making seven clearances, more than twice as many as any of his team-mates, as well as three blocks. He also scored his penalty in the shoot-out and may need that calm temperament when facing Senegal's pacey attack.

He is also part of an Equatorial Guinea defence that has conceded just once in the tournament, despite facing an overall xG of 4.2.

 

Morocco booked their place in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals as Achraf Hakimi's stunning free-kick sealed a 2-1 win over Malawi.

The Paris Saint-Germain full-back struck 20 minutes from time at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo after Youssef En-Nesyri cancelled out Gabadinho Mhango's magnificent early effort.

After scraping through Group B in third place, Malawi were making their first appearance in the AFCON knockout stages.

The Flames took a surprise lead in the seventh minute, Mhango catching Yassine Bounou off his line with a wonderful 40-yard lob.

Morocco had only lost one of their previous 11 games when facing an opponent in the competition for the first time.

Vahid Halilhodzic's side equalised in first-half stoppage time as En-Nesyri headed home from Selim Amallah's deep cross.

The contest looked possibly set for extra time until Hakimi emphatically beat Charles Thomu from 30 yards to send his nation through to the last eight, where they will face Ivory Coast or Egypt.

Serial trophy winner Medhi Benatia announced his retirement on Thursday as Juventus and Bayern Munich stars past and present hailed the powerhouse defender.

The 34-year-old former Morocco captain played a part in five consecutive league championship wins, firstly when landing two Bundesliga titles at Bayern in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

He joined Juventus from the German giants and featured in each of the next three campaigns as the Turin giants mopped up successive Scudetto triumphs, also leading his country at the 2018 World Cup.

Benatia was born in France and began his career in the Marseille youth set-up. He shot to prominence after a move from Clermont to Udinese in 2010, which paved the way for a switch to Roma in 2013, and one year later he was prised away by Bayern amid a scramble by elite clubs for his services.

After a double-winning second season, Benatia moved on to Juventus in 2016, before leaving the Bianconeri to sign for Qatari outfit Al-Duhail midway through the 2018-19 season.

While at Juventus, he was part of the squad that reached the 2016-17 Champions League final and also won the Coppa Italia twice. Most recently he has been with Turkish Super Lig side Fatih Karagumruk, who said Benatia had retired because of injury.

Responding to Benatia's announcement, which he revealed on Instagram, Juventus striker Paulo Dybala sent a heart emoji to his former team-mate. Ex-Bayern winger Franck Ribery did likewise, with current Juve full-back Juan Cuadrado and former favourite Sami Khedira also among those that sent greetings.

Blaise Matuidi, the former Juventus and France midfield general, wrote: "What a career, my brother. I remember those days at [French national football centre] Clairefontaine where we began to dream of being a professional footballer, but by dint of work you did much more than that. Incredible clubs, captain of a nation and having won a good number of titles, you can only be proud brother."

Manchester United defender Eric Bailly joined in the praise, writing: "Bravo capitano. Great man, great career, very good player and finally an example."

Paris Saint-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi praised his former national team skipper, with the message: "Capitanooo. Good luck in your new stage big bro."

Announcing his decision to retire, Benatia said: "From a young age I had only one dream, to become a professional footballer. To get there, I had to force myself to work hard, make sacrifices, but above all set new goals at each stage of my career.

"This job has also allowed me to defend and represent my country, Morocco, with whom I have experienced unforgettable moments... in particular the 2018 World Cup."

Achraf Hakimi was sent off for Paris Saint-Germain as the Ligue 1 leaders played out a 0-0 draw with Marseille in Le Classique on Sunday.

Mauricio Pochettino's side, who started with the heralded trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, largely struggled to break down their stubborn hosts, even before Hakimi's dismissal in the 57th minute for a foul on Cengiz Under.

Valentin Rongier and Konrad De la Fuente wasted glorious opportunities to find a winner in the closing stages as PSG ultimately held on to take a point back to the capital.

The result means PSG are seven points clear at the Ligue 1 summit, while Marseille are 10 points behind in fourth, although Jorge Sampaoli's side have a game in hand.

PSG thought they had taken a 14th-minute lead when Luan Peres diverted Neymar's mis-hit shot into his own net, but a VAR review showed the Brazilian was in an offside position.

Marseille had an effort of their own ruled out seven minutes later, Pol Lirola straying into an offside position before Arkadiusz Milik found the back of the net.

Moments after Pau Lopez tipped a Lionel Messi header onto the crossbar referee Benoit Bastien stopped play for a few minutes after projectiles were thrown at Neymar as he tried to take a corner.

PSG's hopes of claiming all three points were dealt a blow in the 56th minute when Hakimi was shown a straight red card for bringing down Under outside the penalty area as he bore down on goal.

An unmarked Rongier inexplicably headed wide in the 65th minute, while Konrad fluffed his lines when the ball fell kindly to him at the back post as the game petered out for an uninspiring draw. 

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino hailed Achraf Hakimi after his brace preserved the Ligue 1 giants' perfect start to the season on Wednesday.

Hakimi scored a last-gasp winner as Lionel Messi-less PSG maintained their 100 per cent record in a dramatic 2-1 victory at Metz midweek.

PSG full-back Hakimi had opened the scoring in the fifth minute, only for Pochettino's men to be pegged back by Kiki Kouyate's 39th-minute header.

Without superstar Messi due to a knee injury, PSG looked to have run out of ideas, but Dylan Bronn's dismissal for a second yellow card set up a thrilling finish.

Metz head coach Frederic Antonetti was sent off for his protestations and moments later Hakimi scored a 95th-minute winner as PSG made it seven victories from seven league fixtures.

"I am indeed happy with him, he's a great guy, he's a player who's really bringing a lot to us, not just the goals, but also his capacity on the sideline to play both defensively and offensively," Pochettino said during his post-match news conference.

"I am very happy with him, and today, scoring goals, it's been an important reward for the team and for him."

Hakimi – an off-season signing from Serie A champions Inter – has been involved in 13 league goals in 2021 (six goals and seven assists), no defender has done better in the top five European competitions.

This was Hakimi's second brace in the top five European leagues after December 2020, with Inter against Bologna.

Pochettino added: "Can I tell an anecdote on Hakimi? Yesterday [Tuesday], after the training, I asked him: 'How are you?' And he said: 'Very well, very well'. And then he replied: 'And you coach? How are you?'

"I was surprised by the question. 'Because no one ever asks you!'. 'You ask everyone, but no one ever asks you'. And look, today he scored goals. That's the reward for having good intentions."

Pochettino also praised PSG star Neymar, who set up Hakimi's stoppage-time winner away to Metz.

Neymar has been involved in 16 goals in his last 16 starts in Ligue 1 (10 goals and six assists).

"I am very happy with Ney and with his contribution to the team," Pochettino added. "For his attitude and mindset. I am very happy. What I believe is that creative players, players who the whole world hopes they show magic with every touch, those players spend extra energy that other players don't have.

"Therefore it would be unfair to have a player like Ney play every three days hoping that every ball he touches he makes the play of the year. I am very happy with Ney and I think today he did a massive job, like last Sunday. Playing every three day, especially for a players who's got to create constantly, is not easy. Because of that, I am very happy with his performance. Very happy of it."

PSG have won their first seven Ligue 1 games in 2021-22. Only four teams have managed such a performance at this stage previously in the top flight – Lille in 1936-37, Lille in 1949-50, Monaco in 1960-61 and PSG in 2018-19.

Paris Saint-Germain capped a busy transfer window with the loan signing of highly rated left-back Nuno Mendes from Portuguese champions Sporting CP, with Pablo Sarabia moving in the other direction.

Mendes joins PSG on a season-long loan, while the Ligue 1 giants have the option to buy the Portugal international at the end of the season.

The 19-year-old had previously been linked with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, but he has made the move to PSG alongside fellow recruits Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum.

A product of Sporting's famed youth academy, Mendes played a key role as the club ended their 19-year title drought last season.

The teenager amassed a total of 47 appearances across all competitions, scoring once and tallying three assists for Sporting, who also won the Taca da Liga in 2020-21.

Last season, Mendes ranked fourth in the league in expected assists (3.44), third in duels won (186) and second in dribbles attempted (88).

Mendes made two Primeira Liga appearances this term, leaving an unbeaten Sporting side second in the standings and two points adrift of rivals Benfica through four rounds.

He joins a PSG team that standing two points clear at the top of Ligue 1 with four wins out of four and craving a first Champions League triumph.

Spain midfielder Sarabia will spend the remainder of the season on loan with Sporting.

The 29-year-old has scored 22 goals and provided 12 assists for PSG since his move from Sevilla in 2019.

Denzel Dumfries is relishing the chance to impress at Inter after the right-back joined the Serie A champions from PSV.

Inter confirmed the signing of Dumfries shortly after revealing striker Edin Dzeko had completed his switch from domestic rivals Roma.

Dumfries, who was impressive for the Netherlands at Euro 2020, scoring twice during the tournament, is believed to have been purchased for a fee of €12.5million plus add ons.

The 25-year-old has signed a four-year deal with the Nerazzurri.

Dumfries appears set to be the like-for-like replacement for Achraf Hakimi, who was sold to Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the transfer window.

Hakimi's sale was required as Inter looked to ease financial difficulties. The club have also seen star striker Romelu Lukaku depart to Chelsea for a reported £97.5m (€115m).

"The feeling is amazing," Dumfries told Inter TV. "I'm very happy to join the champions of Italy. It's a big opportunity for me and I'm happy to be here.

"I'm a wide defender and I like to attack a lot. I think I'll fit in at Inter as they play with five at the back, as I have done with the Netherlands.

"I know which Dutch players have played here before. It's an honour to join them on the list.

"I hope we can have a great season, maybe win another league title and do well in the Champions League. I can't wait to get started."

Dumfries excelled for Frank de Boer's Netherlands team at Euro 2020, despite the Oranje's disappointing exit to the Czech Republic in the round of 16.

Playing as a wing-back, Dumfries started all four of his country's matches, playing 315 minutes in total.

Inter look set to continue with a back three under new boss Simone Inzaghi, who used a similar system at Lazio, meaning Dumfries will likely slot straight into the role that Hakimi occupied last term.

Dumfries has big shoes to fill, though. Hakimi played in 37 league matches in 2020-21, with only Lautaro Martinez (38) featuring more in the top flight under Antonio Conte during the campaign.

Hakimi scored seven times, a total only bettered in Inter's ranks by Martinez (17) and Lukaku (24), while he also provided eight assists.

His crossing was a particular threat, registering an accuracy of 25.52 per cent from 145 crosses from open play. Based on Euro 2020, this is something that Dumfries will need to improve, given none of his six crosses were classed as successful.

However, his presence in the area was often enough to help the Netherlands break down defences, and only Memphis Depay (24) had more touches in the opposition box than Dumfries.

Dumfries also contested (58) and won (28) more duels than any other Dutch player at Euro 2020, recording a success rate of 48.28 per cent, a figure that is not dissimilar to Hakimi's rate of 50.05 per cent from 333 duels in Serie A last season.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino insisted his players were not distracted by Lionel Messi rumours ahead of Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win over Troyes.

PSG commenced their Ligue 1 campaign with the come-from-behind victory after goals from new signing Achraf Hakimi and Mauro Icardi.

The Parisians have been heavily linked with Lionel Messi in recent days after Barcelona confirmed his departure but Pochettino insisted that had no impact on his team's display.

"No, I don't think so, the players and the team have been focused," Pochettino said at the post-game news conference. "They are professionals.

"His name is associated with different clubs, there are plenty of rumours, but the players have remained committed, they will be until the end of the transfer window.

"We will see what happens in the next few days."

Pochettino admitted it was a "difficult" game for PSG, who are aiming to re-claim the Ligue 1 title after missing out to Lille last season.

“It was a very difficult meeting, we did not start well," the Argentine said. "We conceded an early goal, we have to do a lot better. We conceded too many chances for my liking.

"There were good and not-so-good periods in the game but overall I'm happy. It was very important to get the three points and start the season in this way.

"We have to give credit to Troyes who made the game difficult for us. I hoped for better, but the opponent showed energy.

"We are still at the beginning of the season, still in the process of breaking in. We still hope to win 5-0, but we take this victory as it is."

PSG return to action on Saturday against Strasbourg.

Paris Saint-Germain kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a 2-1 victory despite suffering an early scare against Troyes.

Oualid El Hajjam's ninth-minute header had the newly promoted hosts on top but their delight was cut short 10 minutes later when Achraf Hakimi smashed in a first goal for his new club.

Mauro Icardi doubled the blow two minutes later with what proved to be the winner, poking past goalkeeper Gauthier Gallon after good work by Kylian Mbappe.

Amid speculation over the possible arrival of Lionel Messi in Paris, Mauricio Pochettino's side started positively on the field as they look to recapture a Ligue 1 crown which they have claimed in seven of the past nine seasons.

Thilo Kehrer's last-ditch intervention made amends for centre-back partner Presnel Kimpembe's early mistake as Troyes threatened, though PSG did not escape so lightly from the resulting corner. El Hajjam greeted Dylan Chambost's inswinging delivery as the centre-back nodded past Keylor Navas.

Ander Herrera sent a rising effort into the side netting but shortly after Hakimi restored parity, powering onto Herrera's pass before blasting a right-footed volley into the roof of the net.

Things rapidly worsened for the hosts when Icardi added a second, the forward prodding home after Mbappe's cutback found his team-mate inside the area.

Mbappe thought he had scored himself when he rounded Gallon and curled towards goal, only to be denied by Jimmy Giraudon's goal-line clearance.

Renaud Ripart induced a smart reflex save from Navas to keep out a drilled strike that seemed destined for the net, while Mama Balde's audacious acrobatics had the PSG goalkeeper scrambling after the break.

Back-to-back opportunities followed for the away side to finish the game off but neither went in, Icardi flicking a header wide and Mbappe bending a shot narrowly over the crossbar.

What does this mean? PSG off on the right track

A good start to make amends for last season's underwhelming campaign was vital for Pochettino and they began in positive fashion despite an initial blip.

While PSG had lost just one of their previous nine opening games in Ligue 1 (W5 D3), they were beaten by Lens to open the 2020-21 season. However, Saturday's win sets the visitors off in the right direction to reclaim their crown.

Hakimi's happy debut

Hakimi's equaliser rapidly removed any nerves for the away side, smashing in to become the first player since Metehan Guclu in 2019 to score on his top-flight debut for PSG.

Since the start of the 2019-20 campaign, only Robin Gosens (34) has more goal involvements for a defender across Europe's top five leagues than Hakimi (31), while his goal here saw him become just the second Moroccan to score in Ligue 1 for the club.

Tough outing for Touzghar

Yoann Touzghar almost profited from Kimpembe's early error to square across Navas' goal, though his performance declined from there on in.

The forward cut an isolated figure up top, winning just 33.3 per cent of his duels as he touched the ball just 20 times – the lowest figure for any player who started the game.

What's next?

PSG host Strasbourg next Saturday - could Messi be part of the squad by then? As for Troyes, they travel to Clermont Foot the day after.

Paris Saint-Germain kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a 2-1 victory despite suffering an early scare against Troyes.

Oualid El Hajjam's ninth-minute header had the hosts on top but their delight was cut short 10 minutes later when Achraf Hakimi smashed in a first goal for his new club.

Mauro Icardi doubled the blow two minutes later with what proved to be the winner, poking past goalkeeper Gauthier Gallon after good work by Kylian Mbappe.

Amid speculation over the possible arrival of Lionel Messi in Paris, Mauricio Pochettino's side started positively on the field as they look to recapture a Ligue 1 crown which they have claimed in seven of the past nine seasons.

Thilo Kehrer's last-ditch intervention made amends for centre-back partner Presnel Kimpembe's early mistake as Troyes threatened, though PSG did not escape so lightly from the resulting corner. El Hajjam greeted Dylan Chambost's inswinging delivery as the centre-back nodded past Keylor Navas.

Ander Herrera sent a rising effort into the side netting but shortly after Hakimi restored parity, powering onto Herrera's pass before blasting a right-footed volley into the roof of the net.

Things rapidly worsened for the hosts when Icardi added a second, the forward prodding home after Mbappe's cutback found his team-mate inside the area.

Mbappe thought he had scored himself when he rounded Gallon and curled towards goal, only to be denied by Jimmy Giraudon's goal-line clearance.

Renaud Ripart induced a smart reflex save from Navas to keep out a drilled strike that seemed destined for the net, while Mama Balde's audacious acrobatics had the PSG goalkeeper scrambling after the break.

Back-to-back opportunities followed for the away side to finish the game off but neither went in, Icardi flicking a header wide and Mbappe bending a shot narrowly over the crossbar.

Mauricio Pochettino hailed Georginio Wijnaldum as a "complete player" ahead of the Trophee des Champions clash against Lille, while also commending Achraf Hakimi's versatility.

Paris Saint-Germain disappointed last season as they finished runners-up in Ligue 1 and were beaten home and away by Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals.

However, the French giants have had a busy transfer window, bringing in Hakimi, Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma as they attempt to reassert their authority.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's final, Pochettino praised the former Liverpool man, who he feels will significantly strengthen their midfield.

"We are very pleased to have him here. I think Georginio Wijnaldum can contribute going forward and also defensively", the head coach said. "He has the aggression that we need as a team."

"His experience and quality make him a player who can help in the same way, going forward and defensively. He can win the ball back [and] be aggressive, so I think he is a complete player."

Indeed, Pochettino's men missed that aggression in midfield to drive them forward and regain possession as they limped to a second-place finish in 2020-21.

Last season, PSG ranked 11th in Ligue 1 in terms of the number of possession recoveries and Pochettino has previously explained this is an area for improvement.

While PSG recorded 2,250 recoveries across the previous campaign, champions Lille were the hardest working, recovering possession 2,460 times. The signing of Wijnaldum, who ranked fourth in terms of recoveries for Liverpool in 2020-21, will likely help their cause.

 

Hakimi contributed seven goals and nine assists last season for Inter, a total bettered by only four defenders across Europe's top-five leagues.

"He offers many options to the team, especially going forwards," Pochettino said.

"He has attributes that not many others have in terms of his physical strength, quality and crossing. He is brilliant at cutting in.

"He is adapting well and we hope that he will quickly show that he is a key part of the squad."

On Thursday, Mauro Icardi suggested a win over Lille would inflict revenge, with PSG having lost the Ligue 1 title to them last year.

But Pochettino insisted that the focus was on in-house improvement and any success would serve to make amends for their underwhelming campaign, not Lille's triumph.

"This game won't be about getting revenge against Lille but against ourselves," he added. "The loss of the league title and our Champions League exit left a bitter taste.

"We will do everything to change that, we want to win every competition. We are Paris Saint-Germain, we want to win. We'll do everything to win this trophy, but it's not about revenge because Lille deserved their title."

Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum and Gianluigi Donnarumma have all joined Paris Saint-Germain this transfer window - a haul of signings Mauricio Pochettino feels are befitting of the Ligue 1 giants.

Having been appointed in January to replace Thomas Tuchel, the Argentine led his side to semi-final elimination in the Champions League at the hands of Manchester City and they finished second to Lille domestically.

After bringing in numerous big names, Pochettino is preparing to bounce back in the 2021-22 season and has surrounded himself with some stars of European football.

"A club like Paris Saint-Germain deserves players of the highest level", Pochettino told the club's in-house media on Monday.

"And when you talk about players like Wijnaldum, Ramos, Hakimi or Donnarumma, these are all players who have shown their quality at other clubs and who have proven that they have the quality to play for Paris Saint-Germain."

Donnarumma, whose shoot-out heroics led Italy to their first European Championship triumph since 1968, will provide additional defensive solidarity - a characteristic synonymous with Ramos.

The former Real Madrid centre-back kept 206 clean sheets during his time with Los Blancos, while he is the only defender to score 100 goals in one of the top-five European leagues since the turn of the century.

Hakimi offers further quality at both ends for PSG. The wing-back contributed seven goals and nine assists last season for Inter, a total bettered by four defenders across Europe's top-five leagues.

 

And Pochettino appreciated the impact that experience could have on his team preparing for their next campaign.

"What we are looking for in all players that we want to see in the Paris Saint-Germain shirt is personality and a winning mentality," the former Southampton and Tottenham boss said.

"These players that we have signed have won things at different clubs, but most importantly, they haven't won anything here yet and they will do everything they can in order to do so."

Last season, PSG ranked 11th in Ligue 1 in terms of the number of times they recovered possession and Pochettino insisted this is an area that his team must improve if they are to succeed.

While PSG recorded 2,250 recoveries across the Ligue 1 campaign, champions Lille were the hardest working, recovering possession 2,460 times. The signing of Wijnaldum, who ranked fourth in terms of recoveries for Liverpool last season, may help their cause.

"The key lies in the way we recover the ball, the commitment and desire that each of the 11 players that are out on the pitch show when we don't have the ball", Pochettino added.

"That we have that aggression and collective effort in order to leave the opposition with very few options. I think that will be the key."

Mauro Icardi opened the scoring and Achraf Hakimi started as Paris Saint-Germain got their pre-season up and running with a 4-0 win over Le Mans.

Wing-back Hakimi, signed from Inter after he helped the Nerazzurri win Serie A last season, was handed his first, unofficial start for PSG in the training ground match on Wednesday.

The former Real Madrid youngster teed up PSG's second goal, squaring for Ismael Gharbi to sweep home from the centre of the area.

Mauricio Pochettino's team had gone ahead in the 12th minute against their second-tier opposition, with Icardi on hand to head home after the Le Mans goalkeeper had parried Julian Draxler's cross into his path.

Icardi scored 20 goals in his first season at PSG, on loan from Inter, but failed to replicate that level of performance last term, netting just 13 times.

Bandiougou Fadiga replaced Icardi at half-time, and his 87th-minute strike made it 3-0 before fellow substitute Xavi Simons rounded off the scoring.

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