Edouard Mendy, Ruben Dias, N'Golo Kante and Erling Haaland won the positional awards for the 2020-21 Champions League.

Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy kept nine clean sheets in last season's competition as the Blues won the trophy for the second time, beating Manchester City 1-0 in the final.

City defender Dias was named the best defender, while Chelsea's Kante – UEFA's man of the match in each leg of the semi-final and the final – won the prize for midfielders.

Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland was chosen as the best forward in 2020-21.

The players were chosen from a shortlist of 12, who had each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Five of the 12 nominees were from Chelsea: Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Kante and Jorginho.

City had three representatives – Ederson, Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provided one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, were the other nominees.

Kylian Mbappe is the "future of football" as Real Madrid fight to make him the next Galactico signing after Victor Sanchez compared the Paris Saint-Germain star to former team-mate Lionel Messi.

PSG lured Messi to the French capital after his contract expired at Barcelona, but the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's arrival has not changed Mbappe's stance, with the Frenchman eyeing an exit.

Long tipped to join Madrid, the LaLiga giants reportedly made a €160million offer for Mbappe – who is out of contract at the end of the season – but PSG are holding out for at least €220m.

Sanchez played alongside Messi at Barca, where he emerged from the club's youth system in 2005 and made his first-team debut in 2008 before joining and captaining rivals Espanyol.

The Spanish midfielder, now playing for Western United in Australia's A-League, compared Messi with his current PSG team-mate Mbappe, highlighting the growing need for speed in football.

"[Mbappe and Messi] are different," Sanchez told Stats Perform.

"It's true that football is changing towards a more physical concept, so much about quality. I believe that Messi, [Diego] Maradona, Ronaldinho were quality players in terms of having the ball. And Mbappe is the definition of where the football is going to; the new direction of football.

"A much more electric player, fast. So similar to what is emerging – Ansu Fati, for instance.

"Players with speed like [Erling] Haaland, who is a good player, but not as good as Messi technically.

"The future of football is more physical, more fast, quicker, where teams like France or Belgium or Bayern Munich with strong players, it is what will reign in football in a few years."

Mbappe has scored 133 goals and provided 58 assists across 174 games over four years at PSG since arriving from Monaco.

The 22-year-old's 191 goal involvements since his debut rank third among players in Europe's top five leagues in that time, behind Messi (236) and Bayern Munich superstar Robert Lewandowski (213).

Mbappe was on target as Mauricio Pochettino's PSG overcame Brest 4-2 in Ligue 1 last week.

PSG's Mbappe scored his fourth Ligue 1 headed goal, his first with for club and his first since March 2017 with Monaco at Caen.

Mbappe has been decisive in eight consecutive Ligue 1 games (eight goals, three assists), his second-best run in the top-flight, behind February-November 2020 (10).

Will Kylian Mbappe join Real Madrid before the transfer window shuts?

It has been confirmed that Mbappe wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain, despite Lionel Messi's arrival.

Madrid must now strike an agreement with PSG or wait to sign the France international on a free transfer.

 

TOP STORY – PSG NAME MBAPPE PRICE

Paris Saint-Germain want €220million for wantaway Real Madrid target Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Madrid reportedly offered €160m for Mbappe, who is out of contract at the end of 2021-22, as PSG sporting director Leonardo confirmed the Frenchman's desire to leave Paris on Wednesday.

PSG are said to named their price, with RMC claiming Madrid will make an improved offer for Mbappe.

Premier League giants Liverpool and Manchester United have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky Italia's Gianluca Di Marzio says Manchester City are offering Cristiano Ronaldo a two-year deal, though the Premier League holders are unwilling to pay Juventus a transfer fee. There has been talk of Gabriel Jesus or Bernardo Silva being included in a possible deal to sign Ronaldo. It comes after City failed to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham, while Ronaldo has been linked with former club United as well as PSG and Madrid.

Chelsea have readied their final bid for Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, per Fabrizio Romano. The Champions League holders are also trying to sign Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez – a target for rivals United.

Antonio Conte is one of the top choices to replace Mikel Arteta if Arsenal sack their manager, according to the Independent. Conte is without a club after guiding Inter to the Scudetto in 2020-21.

- Di Marzio claims Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are interested in Brest midfielder Romain Faivre, who is in talks with Milan.

Lazio are pushing to sign Eintracht Frankfurt star Filip Kostic as Joaquin Correa nears a switch to Inter, reports Calciomercato.

Real Madrid would not have bid for Kylian Mbappe if they did not know he wanted to move, according to Leonardo, but that does not mean Paris Saint-Germain will sell.

Widespread reports on Tuesday revealed a €160million offer from Madrid for Mbappe, considered to be their top target.

A bid was confirmed by PSG sporting director Leonardo on Wednesday – although he would not detail the exact amount – and has been rejected by the Ligue 1 giants.

Leonardo discussed the potential transfer at length with the media, outlining his anger at Madrid's approach for a player who has scored 133 goals and provided 58 assists across 174 games over four years at PSG.

The club would clearly like to keep Mbappe, whose 191 goal involvements since his debut rank third among players in Europe's top five leagues in that time, behind new team-mate Lionel Messi (236) and Robert Lewandowski (213).

But the World Cup winner, whose contract expires next year, has his sights set on the Santiago Bernabeu.

Leonardo said: "This seems clear, doesn't it? If Real Madrid make an offer a week before the end of the [transfer] window, it is because the player wants to leave.

"If Kylian wants to speak out and say he doesn't want to leave, then he won't leave, because that's our wish.

"Real have talked with the family, the entourage, otherwise they would not have done so [made the bid]."

This late-window saga comes as a real blow to PSG, who had enjoyed surely the best close-season of all leading European clubs.

Messi followed Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum in heading to Paris. Mbappe has not yet featured alongside Messi, who could make his PSG bow this week.

"We cannot be happy with this situation, because we did something this summer, we have created a dream, we will not let anyone destroy it or position themselves above the club," Leonardo added.

"Kylian is at the centre of the project but not above it. We created a positive atmosphere, a desire, an emotion. That was our plan."

Neymar, like Messi, is yet to feature this term, with Mbappe holding the fort in their absence, weighing in with a team-high three goal involvements in three games.

Cristiano Ronaldo, said to be keen to leave Juventus, would appear to be one potential replacement if Mbappe did leave, but Leonardo has not given it any thought.

"We never thought of a plan without Kylian," he said.

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo has accused "disrespectful" Real Madrid of making an "illegal" approach in their pursuit of Kylian Mbappe.

The talismanic forward has reportedly told PSG it is his dream to play for the Spanish giants.

Los Blancos are said to have made a £137million bid to sign the 22-year-old France forward, who has less than a year remaining on his contract at Parc des Princes.

Mbappe has scored 133 goals and provided 63 assists in 174 appearances for PSG since his move from Monaco, winning three Ligue 1 titles.

 

Leonardo has pointed the finger at Madrid but insists that should the right offer be presented to the club, they will not stand in Mbappe's way.

"We verbally said no to Real Madrid," he said. "This is very far from what is considered to be a sufficient value – far from what we paid for the same player at 18 years old – especially since we will have to pay part of this sum to Monaco.

"The club's position has always been to keep and renew Kylian's contract. There have been several meetings in this regard, and that remains our objective. 

"We made a proposal to Kylian at the level of the other top players and we even did more recently. After that, if a player wants to leave, we're not going to hold him back. But he will leave on our terms. We do not close the door to anyone but we have not received a new offer.

"This proposal seven days from the end of the market looks like a strategy of Real Madrid to get a no from us, and then say that they tried everything to have the player free in less than a year.

"Real have had a disrespectful, incorrect and even illegal attitude since you don't have the right to contact a player directly. This is unacceptable."

Speculation has mounted over the future of Cristiano Ronaldo over the past few days.

Ronaldo was demoted to the bench for Juventus' opening Serie A fixture on Sunday.

Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted there was nothing sinister at play but rumours have swirled since.

TOP STORY - RONALDO TO MAKE PREMIER LEAGUE PUSH

Ronaldo wants to push for a Premier League move in the final week before the transfer window closes, according to L'Equipe.

The Portuguese former Manchester United forward wants to join English champions Manchester City, with the report mentioning Aymeric Laporte or Bernardo Silva being used in any deal.

Ronaldo is reportedly not keen to see out the final year of his Juventus contract, with speculation over a move intensifying this week.

Sky Sport Italia claims that Ronaldo has communicated his intentions to players at both Juve and City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid have submitted a €160million bid to sign Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, according to The Mail. The Parisians have rejected the offer for Mbappe, whose PSG contract runs out at the end of the 2021-22 season and he has refused to re-sign with the club.

- PSG will turn to Everton's Brazil international Richarlison as they look to replace Mbappe should he depart, claims Eurosport.

- Inter will complete a move for Joaquin Correa from Lazio on Thursday, with a deal to sign him on loan with an option to buy for €31m including bonuses, reports Sky Sport Italia.

- Sky Sports reports that Tottenham have held informal talks with Houssem Aouar's representatives as they look to sign the Lyon forward.

- Thomas Delaney's potential move from Borussia Dortmund to Sevilla looks to be on, with a breakthrough in negotiations and the player to fly to Spain, according to Sport1.

Real Madrid have made an opening €160million bid for Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe that has been rebuffed, according to reports.

The France international has spent the past four seasons at the Parc des Princes but is due to become a free agent at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

Mbappe is no closer to agreeing a new contract with the Ligue 1 giants, despite the recent high-profile addition of Lionel Messi to a star-studded attack that also includes Neymar.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi recently stressed PSG do not need to cash in on Mbappe, while Mauricio Pochettino last week suggested he expects the Frenchman to stay.

However, widespread reports from Spain and France on Tuesday indicate Madrid have now tested the Parisiens' resolve by tabling a big-money bid for the World Cup winner.

 

Reports in France claim PSG have rejected the offer, which would make it the third most expensive transfer ever, behind the €222m PSG paid Barcelona for Neymar and €180m handed over to sign Mbappe from Monaco in 2018 after a year on loan.

Mbappe has made 174 appearances for PSG in all competitions since arriving from Monaco in 2017, helping the club to 10 trophies, including three Ligue 1 crowns.

He has scored 133 goals since making his debut in September 2017, placing him behind Cristiano Ronaldo (144), Messi (162) and Robert Lewandowski (182) for goals in all competitions among players in Europe's top five leagues during that period.

The 22-year-old has assisted a further 58 goals for his team-mates, while only Lewandowski (39) has been directly involved in more goals in the Champions League than Mbappe's 37.

Could the Kylian Mbappe transfer saga be nearing a conclusion?

Long linked with Real Madrid, Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season.

Paris Saint-Germain's attempts to re-sign Mbappe have been fruitless up until this point and the Ligue 1 giants are reportedly willing to cash in.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE NEARING MADRID?

Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to accept an offer for Kylian Mbappe should one arrive from Real Madrid before the end of the transfer window, according to RMC.

PSG have been fighting to re-sign Mbappe, who is in the final year of his current deal in the French capital.

However, PSG have reportedly accepted defeat in their efforts to retain Mbappe beyond the 2021-22 season as Madrid look to lure the Frenchman to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Premier League pair Manchester United and Liverpool have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror writes United are prepared to offer cash plus a player-swap – believed to be Jesse Lingard – to sign West Ham's Declan Rice.

- Atletico Madrid are closing in on a deal to sign Hertha Berlin's Matheus Cunha, says Fabrizio Romano. LaLiga champions Atletico had been linked with Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic – also wanted by the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham, Inter and Arsenal – but have so far failed to reach an agreement.

- The Daily Telegraph reports Tottenham are preparing a £40million bid to reunite Nuno Espirito Santo with Wolves star Adama Traore.

Napoli are eyeing unwanted Barcelona midfielder Miralem Pjanic, per Correire dello Sport. Pjanic had looked set to return to Juventus.

- Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira will move to Fiorentina after turning down Eintracht Frankfurt, according to Romano.

Chelsea are continuing to eye Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, claims Romano. The Frenchman is ready to swap Seville for London after agreeing personal terms on a deal until June 2026.

- Inter are monitoring Torino star Andrea Belotti as they seek to replace Romelu Lukaku, says Calciomercato. The Serie A champions have also been linked to Lazio forward Joaquin Correa.

Thierry Henry hopes Kylian Mbappe remains at Paris Saint-Germain amid growing links with Real Madrid.

Mbappe has long been tipped to join Madrid and speculation is continuing to claim the LaLiga giants will try to prise the French star from PSG before the transfer window closes, while Manchester United and Liverpool have also been linked.

PSG forward Mbappe is in the final year of his contract in Paris, where the 2018 World Cup winner is no closer to re-signing despite the arrival of Lionel Messi.

French great Henry, who played for Monaco like Mbappe before starring for Arsenal and Barcelona, wants the 22-year-old to stay at PSG.

"I don't know what is happening with Kylian Mbappe," Henry said on Amazon. "We can always speculate and say a lot of things. Me, what I see is that he is still there, that he is training, he is walking, he is running and he is trying to create chances for his team-mates.

"He scores, I know that well. He is a player who is also honouring his contract, he is doing nothing bad and he is responding on the pitch, so be happy.

"Like I often say, with an exceptional player we are always looking for the little things wrong. I hope that he will stay at PSG, I hope that he will be good and we will see after for what the future will bring him because it is normal to evaluate things.

"But is he lacking in respect towards someone? No, I have not yet seen that. He is there, he is present and he is even playing well."

Mbappe was on target as Mauricio Pochettino's PSG overcame Brest 4-2 in Ligue 1 on Friday.

PSG's Mbappe scored his fourth Ligue 1 headed goal, his first with for club and his first since March 2017 with Monaco at Caen.

Mbappe has been decisive in eight consecutive Ligue 1 games (eight goals, three assists), his second-best run in the top-flight, behind February-November 2020 (10).

Carlo Ancelotti says neither he nor his Real Madrid "team full of stars" are overly concerned by speculation surrounding mooted target Kylian Mbappe.

The transfer window closes at the end of August and Madrid have so far signed only David Alaba, who was a free agent after leaving Bayern Munich.

Los Blancos are enduring financial difficulties amid the coronavirus pandemic, estimating it had cost them "close to €300million", meaning they will "continue in the effort so far to contain spending".

These statements have not prevented continued links to Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe, however.

The World Cup winner, now a team-mate of Lionel Messi as well as Neymar, is out of contract next year and is widely considered a top target for Madrid.

But Madrid coach Ancelotti was unmoved on Saturday, speaking ahead of the trip to Levante, by the suggestion Mbappe could arrive in the coming days.

"The atmosphere in the dressing room is very good because the players are focused on the work they are doing and they are not talking about the market," he said.

"You only talk about the matches and I don't know if everyone then thinks about this.

"I talk to the club every day and the idea that the club have about the future is the same as I have. But I don't think it's fair to talk about it here."

Ancelotti, who has won all four of his LaLiga games against Levante, added: "I don't care what's going to happen in the next few days.

"I have a very good squad that I really want to train with and I'm only focused on the team I have."

Former Madrid favourite Cristiano Ronaldo has also been linked with a return, yet he looks set to stay at Juventus and the idea was dismissed by Ancelotti.

"The issue is settled," he said. "After clearing up the rumours, I just want to say what I said before: the idea of the club is the same as mine.

"After that, everyone knows my affection for Cristiano."

Without bringing in Mbappe or Ronaldo, Madrid are a side seemingly lacking an obvious superstar – but Ancelotti disagrees.

"This squad as it stands can compete with everyone," he said. "We have a lot of top players.

"Courtois, Carvajal, Benzema, Bale, Hazard... I'm going to forget someone. This team is full of stars."

Karim Benzema has certainly picked up the slack since Ronaldo's departure in 2018, with no Madrid player scoring as many goals (89), providing as many assists (30) or playing as many games (148) as the France forward in all competitions in that time.

Benzema this week signed a contract extension to keep him at Madrid until the end of the 2022-23 season.

"Karim is a fundamental part of this team," Ancelotti said. "I'm not going to find out myself. I see him with more personality and more mature.

"It's a pleasure to coach him and watch him play. He has renewed and I am very happy and I think he is very much looking forward to continuing at Real Madrid."

Benzema scored twice in the opening fixture against Alaves and will be looking to net three times across the first two games of a league season for the first time.

That would go a long way to helping Madrid extend their unbeaten run in the competition to 20 matches, the longest current streak.

The transfer window is not even closed but attention is already turning to next season.

Kylian Mbappe is into the final year of his Paris Saint-Germain contract, while Erling Haaland's Borussia Dortmund deal has clubs queuing up.

Manchester United are reportedly set to pursue both.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE, HAALAND FUTURE RED DEVILS?

Manchester United have made Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe a target for next season, according to ESPN.

Mbappe has long been tipped to join Real Madrid and Saturday's Marca and Diario AS claim the LaLiga giants are still trying to sign the PSG star before the end of the transfer window.

Liverpool have also previously been linked with Mbappe, but United are keeping tabs on his situation, with the Frenchman out of contract at the end of 2021-22.

French journalist Julien Laurens, meanwhile, also suggests next year could be the perfect time for United to prise Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland has no shortage of suitors, linked with Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich as his release clause comes into force at season's end.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail says City are willing to sell defender Aymeric Laporte for £60million (€69m). The Spain international is reportedly wanted by Juventus and Madrid.

Chelsea remain interested in Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde, per The Telegraph. The Blues have also been linked with Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez, who has also caught the attention of United and Liverpool.

- Diario AS says wantaway Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele is eyeing a switch to Madrid, Barca or Bayern.

Real Sociedad are tracking PSG star Pablo Sarabia, according to Le Parisien. Sevilla could also reportedly rival Sociedad for the Spain international.

- Sky Sport Italia reports Juve are set to meet with Paulo Dybala's agent to discuss a new contract.

Paris Saint-Germain "must build a team" from their vast array of talent, so says Mauricio Pochettino.

Lionel Messi has headlined five new star recruits at PSG this transfer window, with Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Georginio Wijnaldum also linking up with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Co.

Messi has trained this week, but he and Neymar were not involved as PSG beat Brest 4-2 on Friday.

However, it was once more the absence of Marquinhos - who was on the bench after his break following the Copa America - and Ramos, who will not be available until September, which was felt the most as PSG conceded twice for the second match running. In total, they have now let in five goals across their three games.

Though it has not stopped them taking all nine points on offer so far, Pochettino knows he has to strike a balance.

"It was a very close match. We started well, we led 2-0 by dominating the match," he told a news conference.

"We should have scored one more goal, it was an open game that gave the opponents some chances. We suffered in the last 10 minutes. I'm very happy to take three points on difficult ground, against a team that has started the season well. 

"We are at the start of the season, we can see how difficult it is for all the teams to win a game. There are things to improve. In defence, we have to prevent the transition play which can hurt us.

“We have a lot of names of players that shine, but we have to build a team, that's the challenge. It won't be easy, we have to find a balance between the talents that we have. It will take time."

It was a sentiment echoed by Presnel Kimpembe, who put in a disjointed display at the back while wearing the captain's armband.

"We know that we were playing an away game against a team not easy to play," the France international told Amazon Prime Video.

"The team is not yet complete, we still have links to create. There are new players, we have to adapt."

One major bonus from Friday's win was Mbappe getting his first goal of the campaign, nodding in what was just his fourth headed goal in Ligue 1, and his first in the competition since March 2017.

Angel Di Maria also made a goalscoring return, with the Argentina playmaker lobbing in PSG's fourth to settle the contest just nine minutes after his introduction.

Mauro Icardi trudged off injured late on, which may well open the door for the formidable front three of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe to start against Reims next week.

"The week [of training] has been very good for Leo, so we hope that next week he will already be part of the team," said Pochettino, who also confirmed Icardi would undergo scans over the weekend.

Kylian Mbappe opened his account for the 2021-22 season as Paris Saint-Germain, still without Neymar or Lionel Messi, defeated resilient Brest 4-2.

With Messi and Neymar not judged ready for Friday's game by Mauricio Pochettino, Mbappe scored his first of the season with what was just his fourth headed goal in Ligue 1.

Mbappe put PSG 2-0 up, with Ander Herrera having opened the scoring, but Keylor Navas' error handed Brest a reprieve.

Idrissa Gueye's long-range strike seemed to have settled the contest, though it was ultimately substitute Angel Di Maria who had to wrap up the points after Steve Mounie had pulled another one back.

Mbappe's six attempts across the opening two Ligue 1 games failed to yield reward and the France star might have done better in the fourth minute, with his close-range shot saved well by Marco Bizot, though an expected goals (xG) figure of 0.065 suggested it was a difficult chance.

With Marco Verratti also going close, PSG's dominance told when Herrera tried his luck with a volley which crept in under Bizot, who did better to stop Achraf Hakimi doubling PSG's tally.

Little blame could be attached to Bizot soon after, however, with Mbappe charging in to get his head on a loose ball and divert a looping effort into the right-hand corner.

Navas had to hold his hands up at the other end before half-time, with PSG's shot-stopper failing to prevent Franck Honorat, the benefactor of Romain Faivre's exquisite flick, scoring despite getting a hand on the shot.

PSG's frustrations grew as they looked to add to their lead, yet Bizot's vulnerability from long shots came to the fore again as Gueye's dipping effort from 35-yards out evaded his grasp.

Navas atoned for his earlier mistake by denying Ronael Pierre-Gabriel, though Mounie did set up a grandstand finish with a cool 85th-minute finish.

There would be no fairytale comeback, however, with Di Maria – just nine minutes into his return – lobbing Bizot on the break to seal the points.

What does it mean? Defence a major concern for Pochettino

It is hard to imagine PSG not storming to the title this season, given the supreme quality at Pochettino’s disposal, yet first the former Tottenham boss simply has to get things sorted at the back.

PSG were, once more, all at sea defensively. Without Marquinhos, who has only just returned to the squad, Presnel Kimpembe delivered a performance hardly representative of his experience, while Thilo Kehrer looked out of his depth in the middle.

Five goals conceded in three games is a huge warning sign, and while Marquinhos and Sergio Ramos will no doubt help matters, Pochettino has to get the balance right.

Mbappe gets his head up

Mbappe thought he had opened his account for the season last week, only for his goal to be retrospectively put down as an own goal from Strasbourg's Ludovic Ajorque.

However, he got on the goal trail on Friday with what was his first headed goal for PSG since October 2019, and his first in Ligue 1 since March 2017, when he nodded in for Monaco.

Navas feeling the pressure?

Given Navas has been such an excellent signing for PSG, it was no surprise to see eyebrows raised when they moved to secure Gianluigi Donnarumma. However, the Italy goalkeeper was on the bench on Friday, and his hopes of immediately usurping the Costa Rican as first choice may have been boosted.

Though Honorat's chance for Brest's goal late in the first half was a good one (an xG of 0.353 means that, at that stage, it was the second-best opportunity in the game), Navas got down to what was a relatively weak shot, only to flap at it. With such an exceptional goalkeeper in reserve in the form of Donnarumma, the former Real Madrid man must do better to keep his place.

Fortunately for Navas, his blushes were somewhat spared by Bizot, who should have done far better for two of PSG's strikes. Indeed Gueye's winner had an xG of just 0.015 – the lowest of any attempt all game.

What's next?

PSG are away again – at Reims – before the international break, meaning Messi's debut may still well come on the road. It seems likely, with Mauro Icardi having gone off injured late on. Brest face Strasbourg in their next outing.

The wait is over. A week-and-a-half after joining Paris Saint-Germain, Lionel Messi could be set to make his debut against Brest on Friday.

Following his shock exit from Barcelona as a free agent, Messi became the Ligue 1 giants' fifth major signing of the transfer window, joining the superstars Mauricio Pochettino already had at his disposal.

Messi, alongside his former Barca star Neymar, has been training this week, and though Pochettino refused to confirm his squad during Thursday's news conference, it is expected the duo will play a part.

With Kylian Mbappe already back, here's how Pochettino could set out at Brest.

 

GK: Keylor Navas

Navas has been one of Europe's outstanding goalkeepers in recent seasons, ranking third for goals prevented (8.1, using expected goals on target data) in the top five leagues in 2020-21. Gianluigi Donnarumma – the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020 – did not leave boyhood club Milan just to sit on the bench and, at 22, represents the long-term option, but after only just returning to training, it is likely Pochettino will stick with the former Real Madrid goalkeeper for Friday's game, though the ex-Spurs boss did suggest Donnarumma may be available. 

RB: Achraf Hakimi

Alessandro Florenzi headed back to Roma at the end of his loan, but PSG identified just about the best replacement on the market. Over the previous two seasons, Robin Gosens (34) was the only defender with more goal involvements than Hakimi (30), who scored on his first Ligue 1 appearance.

CB: Marquinhos

PSG won 72.5 per cent of the games Marquinhos played last season in all competitions, conceding 0.7 goals on average. Those numbers altered significantly in his absence, with a winning percentage of 52.9 while shipping 1.1 goals per game. Even with the club's superstar signings, their captain remains one of the key men. Even though he has just returned from an extended break following Brazil's Copa America exploits, it would not be surprising to see the former Roma man thrown straight back into the fray given PSG have conceded three times across their opening two matches.

CB: Presnel Kimpembe

Sergio Ramos, another freebie, may no longer be able to play every game – he appeared only 15 times in LaLiga for Real Madrid last term – but PSG better hope he is there for the big ones. However, the 36-year-old will not be available until September, meaning France defender Kimpembe is likely to continue in the heart of defence for now. He made a game-high four clearances in last week's 4-2 home win over Strasbourg.

LB: Abdou Diallo

This is perhaps the one position on the pitch where PSG lack a genuine world-class option. Even if Pochettino were to bring in Kimpembe as a third centre-back, there is no outstanding left-sided wing-back. Diallo, a defensive full-back in an attacking team, gets the nod by virtue of starting the season fit and ahead of Layvin Kurzawa in the pecking order, while he also assisted Mauro Icardi's opener against Strasbourg.

CM: Ander Herrera

At the end of a season in which Marco Verratti was restricted to only 16 Ligue 1 starts, Euro 2020 provided a reminder of his talents. The Italy midfielder created a tournament-leading 14 chances across just five games while still completing 93.1 per cent of his 417 passes. However, it seems likely we will have to wait to see the playmaker link up with Messi, as he too is only just easing his way back into training. In his place, Herrera seems set to carry on in midfield and, in truth, is a more than able back-up. He attempted 100 passes on matchday two, completing 94 of them.

CM: Danilo Pereira

Leandro Paredes, Messi's international colleague, was trusted for the big occasions in the Champions League. However, he has just returned to training after helping Argentina win the Copa America, while Idrissa Gueye has been out due to COVID-19 protocols. Youngster Eric Ebimbe started against Strasbourg but was replaced by Pereira after an hour, and the towering Portuguese would add some presence in the middle of the park.

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum

Angel Di Maria would be very unfortunate to miss out on a full-strength XI and undoubtedly still has a part to play even with Messi in place, but he too is only just back from international duty. Wijnaldum has featured in both of PSG's Ligue 1 games so far and across his Liverpool Premier League career, led all Reds midfielders in recoveries (951) and duels won (645) and ranked second in interceptions (115) and third in tackles (181).

RW: Lionel Messi

Of course, Messi can play across the front three, but starting from the right – with Hakimi in the Dani Alves role outside him – will bring back memories of Barca teams of old. It is the role he occupied in 2014-15, forming part of perhaps the Blaugrana's most exciting attacking trio, which of course Neymar was also part of.

CF: Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe has the Luis Suarez role, providing the direct runs in behind that create space in front of the defence for Messi and Co, and a video of the two stars linking up in training went viral this week. Last season's 53 goal involvements did not quite match the forward's career-high of 54 in 2018-19, but Mbappe can expect to break all sorts of records in this thrillingly creative line-up this term. He already has two Ligue 1 assists to his name this season, and that is without playing alongside two of the world's best players.

LW: Neymar

Still the world's most expensive player if no longer the biggest name in his own dressing room, Neymar was the third member of that 2014-15 front three. Having decided to step out of Messi's shadow, the Brazil superstar wanted his old friend back. During their four years together at Barca, Neymar assisted Messi 22 times, while the six-time Ballon d'Or winner returned the favour on 20 occasions, and surely the chance to have this sensational front three starting together will be too tempting for Pochettino to turn down – even if it is harsh on the in-form Icardi.

Erling Haaland is one of the most in-demand players in Europe.

Clubs from across the continent are queuing up to sign the Borussia Dortmund forward.

Real Madrid, however, are firmly placed to make a move for the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STILL EYEING HAALAND

Real Madrid believe a deal to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could be done next year, according to the front page of Friday's Marca.

Kylian Mbappe – out of contract in 2022 – has dominated headlines as Madrid target the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

But Madrid have not forgotten about Haaland, who is also reportedly wanted by Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic says Bernardo Silva has turned down a move to Tottenham as part of a potential deal that would help send Harry Kane to City. Atletico Madrid and Barca have also been linked with City's Silva.

Pedri could sign a new four-year deal with Barca by September, reports Sport. The 18-year-old has been a revelation at Camp Nou.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Milan are nearing a deal to sign Tiemoue Bakayoko from Chelsea. Bakayoko spent the 2018-19 season on loan at Milan. Di Marzio, meanwhile, says Milan are interested in bringing Monaco's Pietro Pellegri to San Siro on loan.

- Staying in Milan and Tuttosport reports the Rossoneri are interested in Sassuolo and Italy star Domenico Berardi. Leicester City are also reportedly among his admirers.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga is dreaming of a move to PSG, according to Le Parisien. United have also been linked with the France midfielder.

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