They’re one of the richest clubs in the world and with one of the most star-studded line-ups to boot, but Paris Saint-Germain is trapped in an ugly civil war between superstar forwards Kylian Mbappe and Neymar – and things just appeared to hit rock bottom.
In their second league game of the season, PSG demolished Montpellier 5-2, with Neymar scoring twice and Mbappe once. But the match was not without incident – and not without an Mbappe meltdown.
Mbappe missed a penalty in the first half then won another penalty and demanded to take it, only for Neymar to refuse and subsequently score the resulting spot-kick.
Mbappe cut a frustrated figure for much of the match, highlighted by a staggering moment when PSG had a counter-attack and Vitinha opted to pass to Messi instead of the Frenchman.
The 23-year-old superstar stopped running and threw his hand up in the air in anger. Had he continued his run, he very easily could have scored from the back post as the move unfolded.
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Mbappe did go on to score from a Neymar corner in the second half in the seven-goal thriller, but his on-field strop lit up the headlines – and the drama didn’t stop there.
Teammate Sergio Ramos was reportedly forced to intervene between the two in the dressing room after the game. Later, Neymar took to social media to ‘like’ two tweets attacking Mbappe over his penalty miss.
The first read: “Now it’s official, Mbappe is the one who takes the penalties at PSG. Clearly, this is a contract thing because, in no club in the club that has Neymar, he would be the second taker. None! It seems like, because of his contract, Mbappe is the owner of PSG.”
Since his world-record £198m signing from Barcelona in 2017, Neymar has been PSG’s undisputed penalty taker – until this season.
In May, Real Madrid appeared on the brink of signing Mbappe in a massive free transfer coup, only for PSG to lock the France superstar down on a new three-year deal worth around €50m per year plus a reported €100m signing bonus, the biggest deal in football history.
To convince Mbappe to stay, it was widely reported that the club agreed to part ways with coach Mauricio Pochettino and sporting director Leonardo – with the duo subsequently axed in a stunning demonstration of Mbappe’s power over the club. Leonardo was replaced with Luis Campos, who previously worked closely with Mbappe at Monaco.
Not only did Mbappe decide the fate of the two most influential staff of the club, he also reportedly demanded PSG sell Neymar – something Neymar was subsequently made aware of. Neymar has been linked with Chelsea, Manchester City, and Newcastle United this transfer window – perhaps the only three clubs capable of bidding for the 30-year-old Brazilian.
According to Le Parisien, the duo’s initial friendship following Neymar’s arrival in Paris in 2017 has since broken down, and the pair have “never been so far apart.”
According to Get France Football News, Mbappe has tired of learning from the Brazilian and is seeking to instead continue his development alongside Lionel Messi – the other superstar in PSG’s pantheon of icons.
But the great twist in the tale is that Neymar is playing like a man possessed. After an indifferent last 18 months, where Neymar seemed to lack focus and sometimes fitness, the Brazilian is off to the best start to a season of his PSG career. In three games – two in the league and one in a cup – he has racked up five goals and three assists. More important than those numbers, as good as they are, is the way he has approached each game with deadly focus. The showboating star who could drift in and out of games as easily as seasons now appears to be reincarnated as a single-minded killer, intent on proving the critics – and maybe Mbappe too – wrong.
Given his form – and the fact he is on a massive contract reportedly running until 2027 – PSG’s push to sell one of their biggest names now appears farcical.
In a club that has always battled with outsized egos that seem too big to fit in the dressing room, the latest battle between Mbappe and Neymar is one of the ugliest yet. And it might just get worse still.
France great Thierry Henry said after the game on Amazon Prime Video: “The coach will have to find a way to play the three [Messi, Neymar, Mbappe] and make them happy … good luck.
“At PSG, there is always a debate, a problem. They won 5-2 and we’re talking about Mbappe. Last year, it was Neymar and it will always be like that, it’s PSG.”