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Updated February 12th, 2024 at 23:51 IST

PSG takes on Real Sociedad in the Champions League last 16. Another failure could see Mbappé leave

"Kylian in Paris! Kylian in Paris, Kylian, in Paris. Extend your deal, Mbappé!" The message delivered to France's biggest soccer star by PSG fans could not have been more clear. The World Cup winner responded to the chants with a smile, waived to the supporters.

Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe applauds after the Champions League Group F soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain at the Signal Iduna Park | Image: AP
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"Kylian in Paris! Kylian in Paris, Kylian, in Paris. Extend your deal, Mbappé!"

The message delivered to France's biggest soccer star by PSG fans could not have been more clear.

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The World Cup winner responded to the chants with a smile, waived to the supporters and put his hand on his heart as he left his team's training ground on Sunday.

The short video post set the social media bubble ablaze, generating dozens of comments interpreting the player’s gestures as a clear desire on his part to stay at the club, amid lingering rumors he will join Real Madrid.

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Just days before a crucial Champions League last 16 match against Real Sociedad, the anecdote speaks volumes about the anguish of supporters at the thought of their best player leaving.

But they will have to wait longer before finding out whether he stays.

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“When we’ve both decided, we’ll let you know,” PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi said last week at the UEFA Congress.

After so many episodes, there is no lassitude and the Mbappé saga continues to enliven conversations in France’s sports bars. It's unlikely it will come to a conclusion this week as PSG enters the most crucial phase of its season with the knockout stage of the Champions League starting.

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With less than five months remaining on his contract, Mbappé remains tight-lipped about his future after saying in January he has not made his decision. The French league's top goalscorer is a master in communication and knows too well that announcing a choice ahead of Wednesday's match at the Parc des Princes would take the spotlight away from the team, and certainly hamper preparations.

If Mbappé has not made up his mind, another early failure in the competition would, however, certainly seal his departure from the club he joined from Monaco in 2017.

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Mbappé has never hidden his ambition to win everything. A precocious player, he won the 2018 World Cup with France at the age of 19 and guided his country to another drama-charged final where it lost to Argentina four years later.

But with PSG, apart from the myriad of domestic titles, his burning desire to win the Champions League has so far been frustrated. Despite spending hundreds of millions of euros in hiring top players, Qatar-backed PSG has been knocked out in the last 16 five times in the past seven seasons.

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The only Champions League final PSG reached was in 2020’s pandemic-shortened format, when it lost to Bayern Munich. And when PSG was eliminated from the tournament in the last 16 last year, bowing out against Bayern in a 3-0 aggregate loss, Mbappé was clearly disappointed by his team's limits.

When he renewed his contract with PSG in 2022, with Madrid already pursuing him aggressively, Mbappé signed the extension precisely to win the Champions League title. It looks like it will be this season or never after the stir he caused by refusing to sign a 12-month extension in the summer.

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Mbappé was briefly sidelined by PSG amid the contract dispute, but tensions have eased since and the France star was authorized to talk to clubs in January. According to reports in French media, Mbappé agreed to forgo several financial bonuses if he joins another club, meaning he won’t leave PSG for free.

For now, he looks committed to go as far as possible in the Champions League with PSG. His statistics this season have once again been excellent — he has scored 30 goals in 29 matches in all competitions — and should have recovered from a minor ankle injury to play against Real Sociedad.

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“He’s doing very well physically. We didn’t want to take any risks because we didn’t need to," said PSG coach Luis Enrique after Mbappé sat out a 3-1 win against Lille in the French league last week. "If it had been a final, he would of course have played. But on Wednesday he’ll be available, at 100%, without a doubt.”

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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Published February 12th, 2024 at 23:51 IST

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