Jonathan Woodgate has backed Kylian Mbappe to "flourish" at Real Madrid and "be even bigger than he is in Paris Saint-Germain" if he makes the move, but the regeneration of Los Blancos' midfield is of greater concern to the former defender.

Mbappe is widely expected to leave PSG for Madrid on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season.

The World Cup winner, who has 10 goals and nine assists in Ligue 1 this term, would boost Madrid in attack, but Carlo Ancelotti is not exactly short of firepower – his side's 47 goals the most in LaLiga and eighth-most in Europe's top five leagues.

And in striker Karim Benzema and winger Vinicius Junior, arguably Madrid's best two players occupy the positions Mbappe likes to operate in.

Benzema is 34 but has never been better, scoring 17 and assisting seven, with only Mohamed Salah (25) topping his 24 goal involvements in Europe's top-five leagues. The ever-improving Vinicius has 12 goals and five assists.

Asked by Stats Perform about Mbappe's potential transfer, Woodgate turned his focus instead to the middle of the pitch, where 32-year-old Toni Kroos (1,261) and 36-year-old Luka Modric (1,196) rank second and third for minutes played.

"[Mbappe] will be the biggest signing of the summer, if it goes through," said Woodgate, who played for Madrid between 2004 and 2007. "On a free transfer as well, it's incredible.

"He is a Galactico signing, one of the best players in the world, he'll flourish in Madrid, he'll be even bigger than he is in Paris Saint-Germain.

"But what concerns me in Madrid is with the likes of Modric, Kroos and Casemiro. That three in midfield are all getting to that stage where they're 35, 34 and then Casemiro. They need to start replacing them.

"Okay, they've got [Federico] Valverde, whatever, but that's the main area they need to start recruiting at.

"That three has been around for years and years and years. It's an incredible three in midfield, so it'll be interesting how they replace them three moving forward."

When the next transfer window opens, Erling Haaland's future will be a hot topic.

The 21-year-old striker has two years remaining on his Borussia Dortmund contract.

But there is a £65million (€75m) release clause that enables him to talk to clubs who can meet that valuation from this off-season.

 

TOP STORY - CITY READY TO RAMP UP HAALAND ADVANCES

El Chiringuito claim that Real Madrid's interest in signing Haaland has waned as they focus on landing Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have been heavily linked with Haaland once his release clause becomes active, along with Barcelona, PSG, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.

City "will do what they can" to persuade Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland to join them in the off-season despite believing they are not front-runners, reports The Athletic.

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- ESPN claims that Manchester United have asked Paul Pogba to delay a decision on his future until they have appointed a permanent manager. Pogba's contract is up in June and he has been linked with PSG and Juventus.

- Chelsea have shortlisted West Ham United's Declan Rice, Sevilla's Jules Kounde and Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni as off-season targets, claims The Athletic.

- Newcastle United plan to re-ignite their interest in Lille's 22-year-old defender Sven Botman, who is worth £35m (€42m) according to The Mirror.

- Arsenal turned down approaches from Newcastle and Crystal Palace for Eddie Nketiah in the closing days of the January transfer window reports Fabrizio Romano. Nketiah has six months remaining on his Gunners deal and could sign a pre-contract elsewhere.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Arsenal career appears to be over.

The Gabon forward was in Barcelona on Monday and it appeared a move would be finalised before the end of the transfer window.

However, the deadline ticked by without official confirmation, but the transfer is expected to go through on Tuesday.

That would make him Barca's third signing of the Xavi era, after Ferran Torres and Adama Traore.

 

TOP STORY – AUBA TO JOIN XAVI AT CAMP NOU

Widespread reports claim that Arsenal and Barca have agreed to a rather strange deal for Aubameyang.

The 32-year-old has reportedly agreed to a six-month contract at Barca, with the option for a further year, with Arsenal seemingly agreeing to forego a transfer fee in order to get their former captain, who has not featured since December, off the books.

Aubameyang is essentially a free agent, so that allows the deal to be completed after the deadline passed.

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- Fabio Carvalho's proposed deadline day move from Fulham to Liverpool did not come off, though The Times reports that the Reds are keen to sign the youngster on a pre-contract agreement. 

- Sky Sports reported that Arsenal will save up to £25million following Aubameyang's departure, which The Express claim will be used to fund Mikel Arteta's transfer dealings in the off-season.

- Bild has reported that Real Madrid have already tabled a pre-contract agreement for Kylian Mbappe, who they are hoping to sign from Paris Saint-Germain.

- Journalist Xavi Torres believes Barcelona will attempt to terminate Ousmane Dembele's contract. The France winger is set to leave on a free at the end of the season.

- West Ham failed in a last-ditch bid to sign striker Duvan Zapata from Atalanta, according to Sky Sports.

Mauricio Pochettino was made to rue Paris Saint-Germain's lack of creativity during their Coupe de France exit to Nice.

The holders crashed out of the competition as they lost 6-5 on penalties following a goalless draw at Parc des Princes.

PSG loanee Marcin Bulka was the hero during the shoot-out, saving penalties from Leandro Paredes and Xavi Simons to end his parent club's 14-match unbeaten streak in the competition.

Despite registering 10 attempts and 68.2 per cent of possession, Pochettino's side failed to score in the competition for the first time since defeat by Lille in the 2011 showpiece.

Pochettino urged his players to switch focus to their domestic and continental endeavours after a disappointing result.

"We were better than Nice overall," he said. "We didn't create enough chances to score goals and win this game before the penalties. 

"We should have been more efficient in the last few metres. Then, it's a lottery.

"Even though we were better, we didn't do what was necessary to win the game. 

"We must remain optimistic: we still have Ligue 1 and the Champions League as objectives."

Pochettino also defended his decision to start Kylian Mbappe on the bench, before introducing the France international in the 64th minute.

"Kylian Mbappe had physical discomfort in the last days few days," he added.

"With the advice of the medical staff, the agreement was that he would not start the match. If he needed to do 30 or 35 minutes in the game, he could do them."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has revealed he urged Kylian Mbappe to leave his comfort zone and join Real Madrid after being approached for advice by the Paris Saint-Germain forward. 

Mbappe was the subject of two big-money bids from Madrid in the last transfer window and recently revealed he asked PSG to grant him a move away.

The France international is out of contract at the end of the season and continues to be linked with a free transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu.

He has spent five seasons with PSG, the first of those on an initial loan from fellow Ligue 1 side Monaco, whom he represented for two campaigns.

More than six years after bursting onto the scene, former PSG striker Ibrahimovic believes it is time for Mbappe to test himself in a new league.

"Only Kylian can answer you about where he has to go. It depends on what he wants, what he thinks," Ibrahimovic told L'Equipe.

"Me, I would have gone. But if I am PSG, I would try to keep him. It's him who will decide. PSG want to keep him, obviously, but does he want to stay?

"I also think that there are other clubs that want him: if you are a manager, and you have the means and you do not want to take Mbappe, you are in the wrong business. 

"He asked me [for advice], yes, and I told him: 'If I were you, I would go to Real'.

"I had the chance to play in different teams, different countries, with different champions, and that's how I learned and grew. 

"Playing at home all your career is easier, in my opinion. Whereas if you pack your bags and go to other places, it's an adventure."

Ibrahimovic himself spent four seasons with PSG and scored 156 goals, a tally bettered only by Edinson Cavani (200) in the club's list of all-time goalscorers.

Mbappe is fast closing in on Ibrahimovic in that regard as he has 151 goals in 198 appearances for the Parisians in all competitions since his debut in September 2017.

That is the fourth-most of any player from Europe's top five leagues across that period, behind Cristiano Ronaldo (158), Lionel Messi (168) and Robert Lewandowski (212).

 

While Mbappe is a guaranteed starter for PSG when available, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has struggled to hold down a place in the side since joining from Milan.

Donnarumma played a key part in Italy's Euro 2020 triumph and impressed across six years at San Siro, but he has had to share goalkeeping duties with Keylor Navas this term.

That has come as a shock to Milan striker Ibrahimovic, who spent two and a half years playing in the same side as the Italian stopper.

"I am very surprised. But I know it's not easy for the coach, and I know Navas is a great goalkeeper too," he said.

"They have two phenomena in goal. In my world, Donnarumma is the number one today.

"I don't know if it's good to alternate goalkeepers, or if it's more of a favour you do to one of them. I'm used to having a goalkeeper who is number one and is always the same. 

"And about Donnarumma there is no question: he is the best in the world, and that's that. I played with him, I know what I'm talking about."

Mauricio Pochettino declared Paris Saint-Germain are ready to do business before the transfer window closes – but refused to discuss Tanguy Ndombele.

Tottenham midfielder Ndombele is thought to be a target for the Ligue 1 leaders, with reports that a loan deal is being discussed between the clubs.

Pochettino brought Ndombele to Spurs in 2019 and thinks highly of the former Lyon playmaker, but a move back to France is not yet a formality.

The Argentine head coach declined to explain PSG's apparent interest in the 25-year-old when his name was mentioned in a news conference on Saturday.

"I don't like speaking about rumours or players who are at other clubs," said Pochettino. "We have a squad with enormous quality. The club made a huge effort in the summer to put together the best possible squad with the right balance.

"The transfer window is open now. It also depends on the players who are not getting many chances here. Or for whatever reasons it is that they want to leave.

"The window is open, and the club is always open. Not just to listen but also to see what is happening in the transfer market. I am pleased with the squad that I have. We will deal with individual matters as they come up."

Lionel Messi is poised for his first appearance of the year as Pochettino's team tackle Reims on Sunday, with Kylian Mbappe also set to feature after recovering from an adductor problem.

Messi made his PSG debut as a substitute when PSG and Reims met in August, with a double from Mbappe earning a 2-0 away win amid a whirlwind of global interest in the game.

"It will definitely be a different match to the first one we played against them," Pochettino said.

Messi is fit after a brush with COVID-19, and Pochettino added: "Leo Messi has trained this week. We are pleased with how he is coming along. He is going to be in the squad tomorrow.

"It is always good news when players who have been out for a while are able to return and be back in the squad to help the team."

Mbappe scored in last weekend's 2-0 win against Brest, before a midweek medical bulletin pointed to an injury.

"We are happy to see the way that his problem has evolved," Pochettino said. "He trained with us in the last two sessions. He is going to be in the squad tomorrow. We will decide tomorrow if he starts or is on the bench."

Messi has not scored in his last five domestic matches for PSG and has just six goals across all competitions since arriving from Barcelona.

He has hit the woodwork more than anybody in the French top flight this season (six) – more times than the entire Reims squad (five).

PSG have won each of their last three meetings with Reims in Ligue 1 without conceding a goal, achieving as many clean sheets in this sequence as in the first 11 between the two clubs in the 21st century.

Reims will clearly do well to take anything from Sunday's game, having not scored in their last two Ligue 1 games and with PSG having won 12 and drawn one of their last 13 home games in the competition.

Brentford manager Thomas Frank hinted at the club's potential interest in signing Christian Eriksen as he bids to make a return to top-level football, and even the rumours have the Danish coach pinching himself.

Eriksen has not played since suffering a cardiac arrest during Denmark's Euro 2020 opener against Finland in June last year, an emergency that meant he had "died for five minutes".

He was subsequently fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) – while the device could potentially save his life should something similar happen in future, it effectively ended his time at Inter due to Italian football regulations prohibiting professionals from having such implants.

However, ICD are permitted in other European leagues, and the mutual contract termination between Inter and Eriksen last month means the player is free to seek a contract elsewhere.

Former club Tottenham, with whom he spent six and a half years, had been mooted as a potential destination, but reports on Monday claimed Brentford had offered him a six-month deal with the option for another year.

Frank, who coached Eriksen in the Danish youth setup, was initially coy on the rumours, saying: "I can tell you that Christian is a really good player. Everyone knows that. I worked with him in the past.

"He needs to find a club. I love to speak about players that are in house and go running around training pitch. I don't think I should discuss that. I'm not discussing that too much.

"I really hope he comes back to top football and plays football again. He spoke to Danish TV about playing at the World Cup and I hope he does succeed for all football, and for Danish fans. He's our biggest star from the Euros, we want the best for him and his family."

He soon opened up a little more, seemingly confirming Brentford's interest in both Eriksen and Bologna's Scottish left-back Aaron Hickey before also making reference to a joke made about potentially signing Kylian Mbappe in a recent interview.

"I'm interested in a lot of players, both Hickey and Eriksen," Frank added. "Someone spoke about Mbappe, I'd take him as well!

"A lot of rumours. I love to discuss if and when we sign a new player and give my insight. We're in the market and we're looking for players."

Even if Brentford cannot ultimately land Eriksen, Frank believes the fact he was even discussing such a rumour showed just how far the club had come, though he recognised the unusual circumstances of this particular story.

He added: "We all know the journey this club has been on over the last eight to 10 years. Ten years ago someone would say we're crazy to [think we'd] be linked with Eriksen.

"We're playing in the best league in the world, the club is progressing, it's positive. There are so many rumours out there, coaches being sacked, new players. I think it's more fun to talk about other things – let's speak about reality.

"This a player that only plays for the top clubs. Something unfortunate happened with Christian, he deserves to play at the highest level and I hope he does.

"In normal circumstances, there would be no rumours with a club like us. We should be flattered with Brentford involved with a player of Christian's qualities. It's the same with all the players out there… [Lionel] Messi, Mbappe, Eriksen… if they fill in the criteria, they are right for us."

Real Madrid's squad is already packed with a magnitude of talent – and it could become even stronger should Erling Haaland arrive from Borussia Dortmund later this year.

Haaland has scored 78 goals in his two years with Dortmund – only Robert Lewandowski (107) has more in Europe's top five leagues – and would be a major coup for Madrid.

But while the Spanish giants remain confident of bringing in the in-demand striker from Dortmund, it could have a negative knock-on effect.


TOP STORY - HAALAND IN, BENZEMA OUT?

Karim Benzema is a much-loved figure at the Santiago Bernabeu and is enjoying another impressive campaign, but El Nacional claims that Madrid risk losing the Frenchman.

The report suggests that Benzema does not like the fact that president Florentino Perez is so fixated on bringing in a new player to lead Los Blancos' attack from next season.

While the 34-year is not currently seeking an exit, that could change should Madrid reach a pre-contract agreement with Haaland in the coming weeks, as has been suggested.

Benzema would not feel the need to move on should Kylian Mbappe join, though, as he considers that case to be different given the PSG striker is set to become a free agent.


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Barcelona accept that it is increasingly likely Ousmane Dembele will leave Camp Nou as a free agent at the end of the season. According to Sport, Manchester United and Juventus have held talks with the player's camp, while Chelsea and Bayern Munich have an outside shot of signing the forward.

Arsenal have made their first move to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, with Corriere Della Sera reporting that the Gunners have tabled an offer of £50million (€60m) plus Lucas Torreira, who is currently on loan with the Serie A side.

Chelsea are interested in signing Layvin Kurzawa on loan as they look to bolster their full-back ranks. However, Fabrizio Romano claims that the Blues have not yet officially opened talks with PSG.

– Calciomercato reports that Man Utd forward Anthony Martial has emerged as a January target for Juventus. The France international has struggled for games this season and has openly admitted he wants to find a new club this month.

Everton are on the lookout for a new manager after parting company with Rafael Benitez on Sunday and hope to make a swift appointment. According to ESPN, former boss Roberto Martinez – now in charge of the Belgium national team – is the leading candidate to take over.

Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood this window, but The Telegraph reports that they have been knocked back in their bid to bring in Donny van de Beek on loan. The Man Utd midfielder is said to have been put off by the Magpies' position in the Premier League.

The futures of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the two most sought-after players in world football, could be determined by the end of the January transfer window.

While the forwards look set to stay at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain respectively this month, moves away at the end of the campaign look increasingly likely.

And despite intense competition from fellow heavyweight clubs, Real Madrid are determined to win the race for both players.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TO PUT ASIDE €350m FOR HAALAND

Madrid had two bids knocked back for Mbappe last year but, according to Marca, they remain in pole position to sign the France international in six months' time.

Landing Haaland could prove to be a little more complicated, though, given he will still have two years to run on his contract at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, the Spanish publication reports that Madrid are willing to spend big on the prolific striker, who is thought to have a €75million release clause in his deal.

On top of triggering that, it is claimed that Los Blancos will have to set aside cash for Haaland's father, agent Mino Raiola and a hefty salary for the player himself, which could total around €350m.

 

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- Madrid may be considered the frontrunners to sign Mbappe and Haaland, but they already have a back-up plan in place should either of those moves fail to materialise. According to El Nacional, Fiorentina's in-demand Dusan Vlahovic is also on the Spanish giants' radar.

- CalcioMercato reports that Milan have joined the queue to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen. Christensen, who comes out of contract at the end of this season, is being chased by Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

- Newcastle United could beat Manchester United in the race for RB Leipzig's Amadou Haidara, with The Mirror reporting that the newly-rich Magpies are set to make an offer.

- The Everton board got together on Saturday to discuss manager Rafael Benitez's future in the job, according to Sky Sports. Everton have won one of their past 13 league games and lost to bottom club Norwich City 2-1 on Saturday.

- PSG, Bayern and Madrid are among Kalvin Phillips' suitors. El Nacional reports that Leeds United have a battle on their hands fending off interest in the midfielder, who has been capped 19 times by England.

- The Mirror reports that Chelsea are considering a move for Inter's Ivan Perisic. The Blues are in the market for a versatile player who can play at left-back while Ben Chilwell recovers from a long-term injury.

 

Mauricio Pochettino believes that Paris Saint-Germain's win over Brest can give them confidence for their Champions League tie with Real Madrid.

Runaway Ligue 1 leaders PSG sit 11 points clear at the summit after cruising to a 2-0 victory over Brest at Parc des Princes on Saturday.

Kylian Mbappe opened the scoring with his 10th Ligue 1 goal of the season, meaning he has now hit double figures in six straight league seasons – in that period, no other player has managed to do so more than three times – before Thilo Kehrer sealed the three points.

With Madrid to come in the Champions League last-16 in February, Pochettino insisted that his side can use the triumph as a base to build confidence.

"Every game, every competition is different," he told reporters at his post-match news conference. "But this performance, especially in the second half, gives us confidence. 

"It reaffirms certain ideas and concepts that we must work on. It's true that the team was good and did what we expected.

"We started well but then we lost a few balls and we got into trouble. In the second half we made better decisions. 

"We saw good collective play, we controlled the match. I am happy with the involvement of all the players. We had better circulation by being aggressive. Yes, I am satisfied, because it was not an easy game.

"We would have liked to win more broadly so that it corresponds to the number of chances we created. But the most important thing is to get chances. 

"We know that we have players who have the goals in their legs. If they didn't score today it will be next time."

Pochettino also had time to introduce centre-back Sergio Ramos for his home debut after the hour mark.

And the former Tottenham head coach suggested that the Spain international could offer him a different dimension with his team, with the option of playing a three-man defence.

He responded to reporters when asked about deploying three defenders: "It is an option. Everything is possible in football. We can consider it. We have already done this during the match. 

"It's not just putting in players but yes, it's an option."

Kylian Mbappe and Thilo Kehrer were on target as Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 2-0 Ligue 1 win over Brest at Parc des Princes.

Mauricio Pochettino's side headed into Saturday's meeting on an 11-game unbeaten league run, albeit with four draws in their last five, and were ahead when Mbappe struck in the 32nd minute.

That strike was the 23-year-old's 10th in Ligue 1 this term, meaning he has hit double figures in six straight seasons – in the same period, no other player has done so more than three times.

Kehrer extended PSG's advantage after the interval as the hosts coasted to three points to move 11 clear of second-placed Nice at the summit.

Irvin Cardona twice forced smart stops from Gianluigi Donnarumma in the opening stages, while Mbappe drilled narrowly wide at the other end.

But there was no stopping Mbappe after 32 minutes when he fired through Brendan Chardonnet's legs and into the bottom-left corner, before Mauro Icardi saw his header disallowed for an apparent foul on Marco Bizot.

Marco Verratti almost added a second immediately after the break, only to be denied by the post, though the hosts doubled their lead soon after.

Nuno Mendes danced past Ronael Pierre-Gabriel to find Kehrer, who applied a first-time finish into the top-right corner from near the penalty spot.

Bizot then denied Marquinhos with a fantastic reflex save before making two fine stops from Mbappe to keep the scoreline respectable for Brest.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has stalled on signing a new deal with the French giants.

Madrid have long courted Mbappe with a view to signing him, but PSG remain determined to keep their man.

TOP STORY – PSG RE-ENTER TALKS WITH MBAPPE

PSG have launched a determined attempt to retain Mbappe after making the France frontman a new contract offer, claims Telefoot.

The Parisians are said to have offered Mbappe a massive two-year deal to fight off attempts to woo him by Real Madrid.

Mbappe is reported to be unwilling to make a decision yet and could let his contract expire. It runs only until the end of June.

 

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- La Repubblica reports Arsenal are closing in on a deal for Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, with Fiorentina said to be considering accepting a £58million offer from the Gunners.

- Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano claims both Barcelona and Bayern Munich are keen to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen at the season's end.

- Manchester United are interested in Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi taking over as their manager next season, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Southampton have contacted Manchester United about signing goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports Football Insider. Saints also want to sign Chelsea's Armando Broja permanently but will stiff competition, claims Sky Sports.

- Lille are pursuing former Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa, reports L'Equipe. Ben Arfa left Bordeaux at the end of last season.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid at the end of this season.

The 23-year-old attacker has stalled on a new contract offer at Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have been circling for Mbappe's signature for a long time and had multiple bids rejected in 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE COULD STILL RE-SIGN WITH PSG

Mbappe could spring a surprise and renew his current PSG deal prior to the end of this season, claims Le Parisien.

The 2018 World Cup winner had been expected to become a free agent when his contract expires on June 30 and join Madrid .

Le Parisien claims that PSG have hope that Mbappe may pen an extension to force a transfer fee from Los Blancos, should they pursue a move. Mbappe is still undecided on his future, according to the report.

 

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- Manchester United 's superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo has held crisis talks with his agent Jorge Mendes as he considers his future with the Red Devils, according to The Sun. Ronaldo reportedly may leave United depending on their choice of a new permanent manager.

- El Nacional claims that Liverpool are ready to offer Barcelona teenager Gavi a deal worth £80,000 (€96k) per week to secure his signature, while Manchester City are also interested. Barca have a £42m (€50m) release cause in the 17-year-old's contract.

- Arsenal want to sign a new midfielder in January with Lyon's Bruno Guimaraes on their radar while a loan deal for Arthur Melo was discussed but has not advanced to talks with Juventus yet, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Argentinean forward Dario Benedetto is set to return to his homeland to join Boca Juniors from Marseille although the deal may take several days to complete, reports Cesar Luis Merlo.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Newcastle United have opened discussions with Sevilla on a four-year deal to sign Brazilian defender Diego Carlos .

- West Ham United and Newcastle may be priced out of their pursuit for Marseille's Boubacar Kamara,  who wants a £150,000-per-week (€180k) deal according to The Sun.

Kylian Mbappe has received the glowing praise of France's president Emmanuel Macron, who hopes the star continues to "enchant the public".

Mbappe has enjoyed a sensational rise and, at just 23, is already considered one of the world's best players.

Having burst onto the scene at Monaco in 2016-17, Mbappe has gone on to win four Ligue 1 titles, three Coupe de France crowns, the Coupe de la Ligue twice and the 2018 World Cup.

Since joining Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, Mbappe has scored 150 goals in 196 appearances, ranking him third out of players across Europe's top five leagues within that timeframe, behind Robert Lewandowski (208 goals) and new PSG team-mate Lionel Messi (162).

This week, Mbappe was placed at number one on French sports newspaper L'Equipe's list of "30 who make French football".

President Macron, who last year expressed his desire to see Mbappe remain at PSG amid interest from Real Madrid, provided a glowing appraisal of the Parisian forward.

"Kylian Mbappe may be so young, but he espoused the excellence of his sport for [his] club and national team, he lived the most extreme experiences and he demonstrated the qualities of the greatest: lucidity, courage, resistance. I am sure of one thing: he will continue to amaze us," Macron wrote.

"Everyone obviously wishes him to make this promise come true by building the best track record in European football and above all to continue to enchant the public with his jubilant gestures, his brilliant passes and his magical goals. We know that he can.

"But if Kylian Mbappe has taken a special place in the hearts of the French, it is also through his attitude on and off the field."

Mbappe may not be in Ligue 1 for much longer. He does not seem to intend to sign a new deal with PSG and, from this month, he is eligible to sign pre-contract agreements with teams from other countries.

Madrid, who had multiple bids rejected by PSG in August 2021, are the frontrunners for his signature.

Carlo Ancelotti insisted Real Madrid's planning for next season was "already done" but did not reveal whether the club have made a fresh bid for Kylian Mbappe.

Paris Saint-Germain frontman Mbappe has entered the final six months of his contract at the Parc des Princes and it is no secret that Madrid want to bring him to Spain.

The 23-year-old was a target for Los Blancos during the last transfer window but recently ruled out leaving PSG in mid-season.

However, Italian agent Giovanni Branchini claimed LaLiga leaders Madrid have offered €50million to sign Mbappe now, less than six months after they reportedly offered up to €200m.

They could hire him as a free agent at the end of the campaign should Mbappe refuse new terms in Paris, but getting the France international through the door now would also be a major coup.

Ancelotti was asked about Branchini's comments in Madrid's news conference on Tuesday, but elected to sidestep the issue.

"Talking about players who are not here does not seem fair to me," said Ancelotti.

"I have a good relationship with Branchini. I prefer not to comment on this."

Mbappe scored a hat-trick in PSG's 4-0 Coupe de France win over Vannes on Monday and has indicated he wants to fight for trophies with Mauricio Pochettino's side this season.

Madrid are looking both short term and long term, and Ancelotti said: "The planning for next season is already done. I would find it unprofessional if a club like Madrid hadn't planned already."

On Wednesday, Madrid face Alcoyano at the Copa del Rey last-32 stage, a year on from being humiliated by the minnows at the tiny Estadio El Collao in Alcoy.

Madrid's then-coach Zinedine Zidane and his players had to swallow a 2-1 defeat last January against the third-tier team, who snatched an extra-time winner while down to 10 men.

Ancelotti said his preparation for the rematch had not involved watching a video nasty of last year's upset.

"I haven't seen last year's game," Ancelotti said. "I know what happened because the players have told me about it. It's still an open wound.

"The players know better than I what happened and what doesn't have to happen tomorrow."

A 1-0 defeat to Getafe on Sunday was a jolt to start the new year for Madrid, and Ancelotti quipped afterwards that it was as though he and his players had taken an extra day of holiday. But it will be down to business for the cup game.

"We are going to take it seriously. We know the difficulties we may have, and I will put the best team possible together," Ancelotti added.

Gareth Bale will be absent, unwell rather than injured, but Ancelotti said the Wales forward could come into the equation for the LaLiga tussle with Valencia on Saturday.

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