Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino heaped praise on Kylian Mbappe amid doubts over his future with the Ligue 1 champions, though he was reluctant to discuss Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

Mbappe has been tipped to join LaLiga champions Real Madrid, but PSG remain committed to trying to re-sign the star forward – who is out of contract in 2022.

The 22-year-old has gone four matches without a goal, while he has managed just two goals in his last eight appearances for league leaders PSG.

Pochettino was asked about the possible renewal of World Cup winner Mbappe, who has scored 12 goals in 16 Ligue 1 appearances this term and 14 across all competitions.

"The club are working on retaining the best and he has a huge future ahead of him," Pochettino – who was absent from the win over Angers due to coronavirus – told Cadena SER's El Larguero programme. 

"What coach wouldn't want to work with Mbappe?".

Asked about Mbappe and Neymar after replacing Thomas Tuchel at the start of January, former Tottenham boss Pochettino added: "They've both welcomed me and are open to a new footballing proposition and I can only thank them for the warm reception."

Barca captain Messi has been heavily linked with a move to PSG as he prepares to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Messi has entered the final six months of his contract at Camp Nou and PSG sporting director Leonardo admitted the club are keeping a close eye on the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Premier League giants Manchester City have also emerged as a destination for Messi, while Serie A side Inter are believed to be interested.

But Pochettino refused to give much away when quizzed on Messi, saying: "To be honest, I haven't had time to sit with the president and talk about the transfer market as we're just focused on the present. So many times, a throwaway phrase can be twisted and used out of context."

When it was put to him that PSG are monitoring Messi, Pochettino replied: "No comment. When I was at Espanyol or Southampton, my dream was to have the best players at the club and Messi came close to being loaned out to Espanyol… The deal was well advanced but he delivered a great display in pre-season and that was the end of that.

"We've met over the years in places such as London or in Italy. We both share the love for Newell's, as we both came through their academy and that is our common bond."

"I'm aware of all that is going on. I've been watching everyone from West Ham to Valladolid and these days you need to keep your eyes on every team," Pochettino added ahead of PSG's clash with Montpellier on Friday. "I really don't want to talk about Messi as everything then gets blown out of proportion."

Zinedine Zidane has responded to reports linking Real Madrid with moves for Bayern Munich's David Alaba and Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain.

Alaba will be out of contract at Bayern at the end of the season and on Monday Spanish sports newspaper Marca claimed an agreement on a four-year deal at the Santiago Bernabeu had been reached.

The versatile defender's father, who also acts as an advisor, has since denied anything has been signed with LaLiga champions Madrid.

Asked about the rumours on Tuesday during a news conference to preview a Copa del Rey clash with Alcoyano, Zidane was unwilling to get into specifics.

"I understand you want to ask this question on a player that isn't part of our club, but I'm here to focus on Wednesday's game," he said.

"I understand there are topics worth discussing but I'm not going to comment now on outside events. My staff and I are focusing on the game."

The Madrid boss offered a similar response when asked if he would like to have Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe at the club.

He said: "I'm sorry, I already said the same with Alaba. I'm sorry. We're focused on tomorrow's game."

France international Mbappe will be out of contract at PSG at the end of next season and has never hidden his admiration of his fellow World Cup winner and compatriot Zidane.

Asked if the best players in the world ultimate choose where they want to play, Zidane responded: "In the end, yes. But everyone has a contract and it's not good to get involved in the things of players who are not yours."

Since his debut for PSG on August 4, 2017, Mbappe has had a hand in 101 goals in Ligue 1 (76 scored and 25 assisted).

Across the top five European Leagues, only Mohamed Salah (117 – 86 and 31), Ciro Immobile (118 – 92 and 26), Robert Lewandowski (124 – 106 and 18) and Lionel Messi (154 – 106 and 48) have had a hand in more during the same time frame.

He has averaged two key passes per 90 minutes, fewer only than Messi (2.7) and Neymar (3.0) among players to have scored at least 50 goals.

Paris Saint-Germain are keeping a close watch on the future of Barcelona captain Lionel Messi, according to the club's sporting director Leonardo. 

Messi has entered the final six months of his contract at Camp Nou and could make a sensational free transfer once his deal expires after this season. 

PSG and Manchester City have been tipped as the most likely clubs to sign the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, who was sent off in the 3-2 Supercopa de Espana loss to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, if he chooses not to extend his contract with Barca. 

While he says now is not the time to say anything concrete about a possible agreement, Leonardo suggests the Ligue 1 champions will be ready to make their move should Messi wish to seek a new challenge. 

"Great players like Messi will always be on PSG's list," he told France Football. "But this is of course not the time to talk about it, or to dream about it. 

"But we are sitting at the big table of those who are following the case closely. In fact, no, we're not yet sitting there, but our chair is reserved, just in case... 

"Four months is an eternity in football, especially at this time." 

It has been reported in France that PSG's priority for now is to extend the contracts of star forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. 

The world's most expensive two players see their present deals at Parc des Princes expire at the end of next season. 

Leonardo maintains PSG will not be forced into any special concessions in order to keep them at the club, but he has a positive feeling they can reach agreements. 

"I hope they're convinced PSG is a good place right now for an ambitious and very high-level footballer," he said. 

"We just have to find an agreement between their desires, their requirements, our expectations and our means. 

"We don't have to beg them 'please stay'. Those who really want to stay will stay. We talk regularly and I have good feelings on these two cases."

Will a Juventus-Paul Pogba reunion become a reality?

The future of Manchester United star continues to dominate headlines.

A move back to Turin could be on the cards for Pogba.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE TO MAKE POGBA OFFER

Serie A champions Juventus will try to prise Paul Pogba from Manchester United at the end of the season, according to the Calciomercato.

Pogba appears set to leave United following the 2020-21 campaign after his agent Mino Raiola claimed the French midfielder was unhappy in Manchester.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain have been linked but Juve, who signed Pogba from United in 2012 before losing him to the Red Devils four years later, want to bring the World Cup winner back to Turin.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Telegraph reports Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will be given £200million to spend on new players in the next transfer window. Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku are on the list of potential targets, as well as Benfica's Darwin Nunez amid doubts over Sergio Aguero 's future. Haaland has also been linked with neighbours United , Madrid , Barca , Liverpool and Juve .

Bayern Munich are interested in Madrid defender Eder Militao , claims Mundo Deportivo. It comes as Bayern look to replace David Alaba , who is set to leave the Bundesliga champions on a free transfer. Alaba has been tipped to join Madrid .

Milan  are close to re-signing star pair Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu , says Tuttosport. Corriere dello Sport reports Milan are also nearing a deal to sign veteran forward Mario Mandzukic .

- The Athletic claims Mesut Ozil is poised to leave Arsenal for Turkish giants Fenerbahce after reaching an agreement in principle to terminate his Gunners contract.

- The Transfer Window Podcast claims Madrid are considering the possibility of using Eden Hazard in a deal to lure Kylian Mbappe from PSG.

Memphis Depay has been strongly tipped to move to Barca , however, Ok Diario reports the Lyon captain could join Madrid following Luka Jovic's loan return to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Jesus Perez defended Kylian Mbappe after the Paris Saint-Germain star fired another blank as the Ligue 1 champions overcame Angers 1-0 to move top of the table.

Layvin Kurzawa's goal with 20 minutes remaining saw PSG edge Angers at Stade Raymond Kopa on Saturday, leapfrogging rivals Lyon in the process, though Rudi Garcia's side can return to the summit by topping Metz on Sunday.

PSG are six games unbeaten in Ligue 1, while the titleholders have kept 12 clean sheets this season – more than any other team in the top-five European leagues.

But Mbappe was a topic of discussion post-game after the reported Real Madrid target saw his scoreless run extend to four matches as he was withdrawn 10 minutes from time.

PSG assistant Perez, deputising in the absence of head coach Mauricio Pochettino due to his positive coronavirus test, praised the France international forward – who has scored 12 goals in 16 Ligue 1 appearances this term and 14 across all competitions.

"Kylian was instrumental in this victory," Perez told reporters. "He fulfilled his role. We changed his position during the match. 

"He then better attacked the spaces. He's less successful at the moment, but he has his share in that success. He worked hard for the team."

With Pochettino self-isolating, Perez took charge as PSG secured back-to-back league wins, having also claimed the Trophee des Champions during the week.

PSG duo Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes exchanged 72 passes against Angers, the highest tally for a midfield pair in Ligue 1 this season.

Asked about Pochettino and his absence, Perez said: "He had contact with the players by video before the game. We too had it before the match and then at half-time to exchange. 

"We continued to discuss what we did this week. We also talked about training for the coming week. We will take advantage of this week's macrocycles to focus on specific points during the session. We prepared everything with Mauricio."

"It was difficult but we took the three points," he added. "Angers are a very well-organised team which gave us some concerns. But we went for this victory."

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino has defended Kylian Mbappe amid accusations the forward has lost form and focus.

France star Mbappe has scored only twice in his past seven games in all competitions, having started the season by hitting nine goals in as many games.

Beyond a lack of goals, the 22-year-old has been enduring a run of performances in which he has made few decisive contributions.

In his most recent five outings, Mbappe has twice failed to have a shot – including in Wednesday's 2-1 Trophee des Champions win over Marseille – and failed to create a chance for team-mates in three separate games.

He has also completed more than two dribbles in a single game on only one occasion in that run and has been criticised for losing the ball too often. Against Marseille, he lost possession 19 times, the most of any PSG player, and only dribbled past a defender twice.

Former PSG midfielder and coach Jean-Michel Larque, speaking via RMC, claimed Mbappe was careless against Marseille as he was trying to "ridicule" his opponents, adding that the player's current malaise means he "has no place at Paris Saint-Germain".

However, ahead of Saturday's Ligue 1 clash with Angers, Pochettino insisted Mbappe is striving to do his best.

"I'm very happy with Kylian's form," Pochettino told a news conference. "He is an important player for us.

"He is trying hard for the team. I'm happy with his effort and his involvement against Marseille.

"As with everything, we are always looking to improve but I'm pleased with Mbappe's effort and commitment. He's played 90 minutes in all three games [since Pochettino's arriva], which shows I'm pleased with the way he is performing.

"So much is expected of him and he's in the spotlight, but as I said, I'm very pleased with him and, over time, he'll get goals and more assists."

Asked if Mbappe needed a rest to recover top form, Pochettino said: "There are a lot of myths about the way you manage players in a team in terms of fitness.

"Our decisions are based on the best for all the players. Mbappe has played all three games because he is fit. He will improve with the more minutes he gets."

PSG head to Angers having not lost to Stephane Moulin's side in the past 20 league meetings since a 3-1 defeat in January 1975.

However, the champions have won only once in their previous four away league matches and have failed to win five of their past nine top-flight games, as many as in their previous 30 in the competition.

Neymar will make his return for Paris Saint-Germain when they take on rivals Marseille in the Trophee des Champions.

PSG will look to win the trophy for a remarkable eighth consecutive season as they line up against Marseille in Lens on Wednesday.

New head coach Mauricio Pochettino confirmed Neymar will play some part in the contest after missing the last five matches with an ankle injury.

"Neymar is available - he will be with the group," Pochettino said about the Brazil forward, who has been out for a month since the Ligue 1 defeat to Lyon.

"We will decide on Wednesday if he will start."

There have been concerns about burnout for Kylian Mbappe, who again played 90 minutes in the 3-0 Ligue 1 win over Brest on Saturday.

But Pochettino is optimistic about the World Cup winner's fitness ahead of a match with high stakes, where the coach feels pride is more important than the silverware on offer.

"Kylian is in perfect condition," Pochettino said when asked if Mbappe could start for a third time in eight days.

"We are evaluating the different options for our line-up on Wednesday. We will see which team is the best to win this match. We need to perform at the best level to get the win against Marseille.

"My main motivation is to win this game. We are playing against a great rival in OM. Pride is important, much more than titles. We will do everything to win this match. 

"If we win, we know it will bring a trophy. But the most important thing is pride."

Asked about his own experiences of Le Classique as a PSG player, Pochettino added: "I remember these meetings perfectly.

"All the games were very special. For the players, the fans, the club, football is a sport of emotions.

"We realise with the health situation how much we miss the fans. The importance of this match, I had already felt it in my time."

Five players were sent off in stoppage time when these two sides met in Ligue 1 in September, following a brawl, but Pochettino sees that having no bearing on this week's game.

"The first match [against Marseille this season] is one I was not involved in. I can't talk much about it. I saw pictures. The situation is over," Pochettino said.

PSG will be without Colin Dagba, the latest player at the club to test positive for coronavirus.

Dagba has started both PSG games under Pochettino, but the defender will not play no part against Andre Villas-Boas' side as he is self-isolating.

Fellow defender Thilo Kehrer and Rafinha have also tested positive for the virus since PSG returned to training this month.

Despite the coronavirus situation, Real Madrid are still looking to make a splash in the transfer market.

Madrid have long been linked with Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.

And if reports are to be believed, the LaLiga champions are planning for the Frenchman.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WORKING ON MBAPPE MOVE

Real Madrid are working on a plan to sign Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, according to Tuesday's frontpage of Diario AS.

Mbappe – also linked to Liverpool – has been tipped to join Madrid, though Ligue 1 holders PSG remain committed to trying to re-sign the Frenchman.

Despite the economic fallout caused by coronavirus, Madrid are still looking to prise Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to player sales and revenue generated by the return of fans.

 

ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich have identified RB Leipzig star and centre-back Dayot Upamecano as the player to replace David Alaba, reports Sport 1. Alaba is out of contract at season's end and the Bayern star has been linked to the likes of Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City. With Alaba heading for an exit, in-demand Upamecano is wanted in Munich. It comes as Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Barca vie for his signature.

- According to Esporte Interativo, Neymar wants to stay at PSG as the French giants prepare a new contract. Neymar has been linked with a return to Barca.

- Fabrizio Romano says an agreement has been reached between United and Bayer Leverkusen for Timothy Fosu-Mensah to join the Bundesliga side.

Milan are eyeing a move for Chelsea's Fikayo Tomori, reports Sky Sports. Strasbourg defender Mohamed Simakan remains the primary target for the Rossoneri. It comes as Fiorentina close in on Milan full-back Andrea Conti.

Mauricio Pochettino insists there is still room for improvement from his Paris Saint-Germain side after brushing aside Brest 3-0 on Saturday.

Second-half substitutes Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia added to Moise Kean's opener as the reigning Ligue 1 champions ran out comfortable winners at the Parc des Princes.

The win, coming three days on from a 1-1 draw with Saint-Etienne in Pochettino's first game in charge, moves PSG within a point of leaders Lyon, who were held 2-2 by Rennes.

But despite the comfortable manner of the scoreline, Pochettino - named as Thomas Tuchel's successor last week - accepts there are still things to work on.

"We are satisfied with the result, it is the fruit of the effort of all the players," he told Canal+.

"But there is still a lot we have to correct. We must continue to work with high standards."

Kylian Mbappe fired a blank for the third time in four outings, failing to find the net from any of his three shots on target - more than any other player on the field.

But the France forward claimed an impressive assist for Sarabia's goal by taking the ball past a couple of opponents and teeing up his team-mate.

He cut a frustrated figure at times but Pochettino is pleased with Mbappe's overall display.

"Mbappe has done good things," Pochettino said. "He had chances and it's a shame he didn't score. But he had a good game."

PSG had 60.9 per cent of the ball against Brest - compared to an average of 63.9 per cent under former boss Tuchel - and attempted 11 shots on target.

Sarabia, who netted his third league goal of the season 27 minutes after being brought off the bench, believes Pochettino's style of play is already clear to see just two games in.

"He wants us to have a lot of the ball and to knock the ball a lot to destabilise the opponent," he said.

"He asks us to do a lot of pressing, very high. It is very important to capture all the ideas of the coach to try to do the best possible. 

"There are things that are similar between Tuchel and Pochettino but there are things that are very different. We have to work because there are a lot of things that are new."

PSG now switch focus to Wednesday's Trophee des Champions clash with Marseille and a chance to win a first piece of silverware of the Pochettino tenure.

"It's a very special match for Paris and for me too," the former Tottenham boss said. 

"We hope to have a good match and to arrive in the best conditions to be competitive. And of course, like every time we play Marseille, we have to win."

Mauricio Pochettino wants "special player" Kylian Mbappe to enjoy himself on the pitch, which could help him to regain his best form.

Mbappe has 12 goals in 14 Ligue 1 matches this season but has not been at the peak of his powers amid concerns over burnout.

Pochettino said the 22-year-old needed to improve after Paris Saint-Germain were held to a 1-1 draw at Saint-Etienne in the new head coach's first game in charge on Wednesday.

Ahead of facing Brest in his first home game since replacing Thomas Tuchel on Saturday, Pochettino was asked if forward Mbappe still seemed tired.

"It is a question about a special player," Pochettino said of Mbappe, who is in negotiations to renew his contract beyond 2022 amid speculation he could move on.

"He came back in good shape after the break, with a very good state of mind. 

"He is the top scorer in the championship. We hope that he will have fun and find the performance of which he is capable."

Returning to Parc des Princes, where he played from 2001 until 2003, is an occasion former Tottenham boss Pochettino – who will again be without star forward Neymar - is looking forward to.

"It's going to be a special night and a joy, yes, 20 years after wearing this jersey," he said.

"Unfortunately there will be no supporters, it's a shame and that will be missing. 

"In any case, we talked about it among ourselves and with our families: we have the impression that we have been here for a year, whereas it's only been five or six days!"

With one game to go until Ligue 1 reaches its halfway stage, champions PSG are three points behind leaders Lyon.

Manchester City reportedly believe they lead the race for Lionel Messi if the star leaves Barcelona.

Messi, 33, is out of contract at Barca at the end of the season and is linked with a move from the LaLiga giants.

The forward stayed at Camp Nou after sensationally requesting a transfer ahead of 2020-21, but it may have just delayed his exit.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY LEAD MESSI RACE IF STAR LEAVES

Manchester City believe they lead the race for Messi if he leaves Barcelona, according to The Telegraph.

City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter have been most strongly linked with a move for Messi, who is expected to make a decision on his future at the end of the campaign.

Messi has scored 12 goals in 20 games in all competitions this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- With Gareth Bale injured, his chances of a longer stay at Tottenham appear slim. AS reports Real Madrid are expecting the attacker to return to the club at the end of his loan spell at the conclusion of the campaign, and that would hurt their chances of signing Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe with Bale contracted until 2022.

- Georginio Wijnaldum's future is no closer to being sorted. Sky Sports reports the midfielder and Liverpool have reached a stalemate over a new contract. Wijnaldum's deal expires at the end of the season and the Netherlands international has been linked with a move to Barcelona.

- Starring at Tottenham this season, Son Heung-min could be set for a new deal. The Telegraph reports Spurs are confident the forward, who is contracted until 2023, will re-sign.

- Mesut Ozil could finally be set to leave Arsenal. DHA reports the playmaker has agreed to a three-and-a-half-year deal with Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

- With Moise Kean impressing on loan at Paris Saint-Germain, Everton are expecting an offer for the forward, according to the Liverpool Echo. Kean has 10 goals in 17 matches for PSG this season.

- Diego Alonso is under pressure at the helm of Inter Miami, and Sky Sports reports the MLS side have approached Phil Neville, who is the coach of England's women's team, to take over.

Lionel Messi's wages are not sustainable but the superstar forward can be persuaded to stay at Barcelona with a sporting project that appeals to him, according to presidential candidate Emili Rousaud.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner was unsuccessful in his attempt to leave Camp Nou ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, but he is now free to discuss an end-of-season transfer with clubs after entering the final six months of his contract.

He was strongly tipped to reunite with former boss Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, while Inter and Paris Saint-Germain – now coached by fellow Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino – have also been linked.

But while reiterating Messi will have to take a pay cut if he is to stay on at Barca beyond this season, Rousaud has outlined his plan to tempt the one-club man to put pen to paper on fresh terms.

"He did not want to leave the club for economic reasons. It was down to the lack of a sports project," Rousaud told Sport.

"I will look him in the eyes and say: 'Your salary is unsustainable, the club cannot pay you. But we are going to launch a project to surround you with young talent'.

Despite Barca's financial concerns in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Rousaud has previously outlined his intention to bring in prolific striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund if he succeeds Josep Maria Bartomeu in this month's elections.

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe is another possible target and Rousaud believes the prestige of playing for Barcelona could give the LaLiga giants an advantage in the transfer market.

"The market prices in which the players move now are not those of two years ago," he said. "In addition, Barca has something very important: a shirt that has a lot of weight in the world. But off course, we will not stretch the arm more than the sleeve.

"My advisor Josep Maria Minguella has spoken with [Haaland's agent] Mino Raiola to find out the conditions in which he would come and we have started talking. 

"For a player like him, being in a club like ours would give him a great showcase worldwide."

Rousaud has also vowed to attempt to bring Neymar back to Catalonia should he be elected, despite the Brazilian forward leaving Barca for PSG under a cloud that has since seen him embroiled in a court battle over an alleged breach of contract.

However, rather than condemning Neymar for leaving the club for a record €222million fee in 2017, Rousaud feels Barca only have themselves to blame for wasting the money on two players who have been blighted by injury problems.

"The money left by Neymar was invested in two players: [Philippe] Coutinho and [Ousmane] Dembele, who have not given the expected sporting result," he said. 

"And since they didn't work, we signed others. And since we no longer have cash, we started to get into debt.

"They say that Neymar humiliated us. I respect that opinion, but it left us €222million. If with that money we had signed Mbappe, maybe we wouldn't talk about Neymar anymore."

Barcelona presidential candidate Joan Laporta claimed he is the man best placed to persuade Lionel Messi to stay at Camp Nou.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and the Argentine's long-term future with Barca remains unclear.

The 33-year-old sent shockwaves through the world of football when he expressed a desire to end his near two-decade association with the Blaugrana ahead of the 2020-21 season, but after a lengthy transfer saga he opted to stay put.

An end to the tenure of Josep Maria Bartomeu – with whom Messi has had a tense relationship – as president in October has prompted the club to bring forward their elections to January 24.

Laporta, who served as Barca president between 2003 and 2010, is considered the leading candidate to triumph in the elections according to a poll in Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

Since his debut in October 2004, Barca have won 55.9 per cent of their LaLiga games without Messi (won 66, drawn 39 and lost 22), compared to 73.7 per cent with him in the side (won 368, drawn 83 and lost 48).

And Laporta believes his own personal relationship with Messi elevates him above other presidential candidates. 

"I see him [Messi] as positive because he said he will wait until the end of the season, and that gives us time to make a convincing proposal," Laporta told Marca.

"And I have an advantage, with Leo I have credibility. He always tells me that everything I promised him was fulfilled. You know that if I give my word, I keep it.

"We missed huge opportunities having the best player in the world. At Barca there are no transition years.

"We should have won more Champions Leagues, we hope to resume that success story of Barca with the competition. By the way, during my [previous] tenure Madrid did not win any."

Other candidates have made bold claims about which players they will bring to Camp Nou if they were elected.

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland plus Paris Saint-Germain duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have been the most high-profile names, but Laporta would not be drawn on transfer targets.

"I have my own sports project. I will not fall into the trap of naming names," he added.

"All the agents are calling me. I know them all and they want me to be president again, but I tell them that now I'm not talking about players or coaches."

Laporta also believes Barca's influence has diminished in recent years and he would seek to restore their standing.

"It has lost a lot of specific weight in the Spanish Football Federation, LaLiga, UEFA, FIFA and in all the bodies that govern football," he explained.

"Barca has to regain its credibility. We must have a presence to intervene in decision-making that affects football in general."

Paris Saint-Germain have used the mid-season break to replace Thomas Tuchel with Mauricio Pochettino, and the new head coach has some big issues to contend with.

A 4-0 win over Strasbourg before the mid-season break was not enough to spare Tuchel, who was relieved of his duties after two and a half years at the helm.

Tuchel left PSG having won six trophies in the French capital, while also taking the club to the brink of a long-awaited Champions League success last term.

PSG ultimately came up short, going down 1-0 to a dominant Bayern Munich in the final.

Tuchel remained in place for the new season but was only been able to guide the club to third in Ligue 1, with the Parisians losing four of their 17 matches.

Pochettino spent over two years with PSG in his playing days and was picked to take over the reins at the Parc des Princes, signing a contract until June 2022 with an option for a further year.

Here are the major issues Pochettino must contend with.

 

ASSERT LIGUE 1 DOMINANCE

While the Champions League is clearly the be-all and end-all for PSG's Qatari owners, the bedrock of their success is domestic supremacy.

Over the past eight seasons, PSG have only failed to win the Ligue 1 title once – during Unai Emery's first season in charge, when a Kylian Mbappe-inspired Monaco charged to glory.

Tuchel had little trouble in claiming back-to-back championships, albeit last season's Ligue 1 campaign was curtailed in April due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, with the congested nature of 2020-21 making life tough for all of Europe's biggest teams, PSG find themselves point behind joint-leaders Lille and Lyon, the latter of whom recently claimed their first league win at Parc des Princes since 2007.

It is hardly an unassailable gap, though the first task for PSG's new head coach will be to return to the top of the pile, while defending their Coupe de France crown will also provide another chance for a trophy.

SECURE THAT ALL-IMPORTANT CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Ultimately, any coach at PSG is judged on their success – or lack thereof – in Europe.

Tuchel pushed PSG further than any other coach has in the Champions League since Qatar Sports Investments' takeover, but it was still not enough to stop Hansi Flick's Bayern completing an incredible treble.

PSG were inconsistent in this season's condensed group stage, losing at home to Manchester United and away to RB Leipzig, before a 3-1 win at Old Trafford and a 5-1 victory over Istanbul Basaksehir secured their place in the knockout stages.

Ronald Koeman's iffy Barcelona team await in the last 16, and there has arguably never been a better time to face the Catalan giants in Europe – although Bayern's 8-2 rout back in August may suggest differently.

Crucial to any push for silverware in UEFA's elite club competition will be getting the best out of Neymar and Mbappe. The latter missed some big chances in last season's final, and only against Basaksehir did he end a year-long run without a Champions League goal (nine games).

KEEP NEYMAR AND MBAPPE, AND THROW IN MESSI FOR GOOD MEASURE

PSG's sporting director Leonardo has confirmed contract discussions are underway with Neymar and Mbappe.

France star Mbappe has already scored 104 times across all competitions for PSG, though Real Madrid and Barca have regularly been touted as suitors – then again, which of Europe's elite clubs would not want the 22-year-old in their ranks?

Neymar, meanwhile, has consistently been linked with a move back to Barca, but that transfer is looking increasingly unlikely.

Indeed, the prospect of the Brazil superstar linking up with Lionel Messi once more seems much more likely to occur in Paris than at Camp Nou.

Messi begrudgingly decided to stay and see out the remaining year of his Barca contract but has started to hit better form again – he has scored six times in his past eight league games to surpass Pele's record of 643 goals for one club.

Koeman believes Messi is happy at Barca, but as it stands the 33-year-old is set to become the most highly sought-after free agent in history at the end of 2020-21.

While it was Manchester City and Pep Guardiola who were credited as frontrunners in the close season, PSG's owners certainly have the ambition – and funds – to make a transfer come to fruition, and it may well be down to the coach to swing Messi towards Paris, rather than the Premier League or a Barca extension.

Pochettino has previously spoken of his desire to work alongside his compatriot, and it may well be a perfect match.

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