Mauricio Pochettino promised Paris Saint-Germain will fight to keep Kylian Mbappe amid the latest round of reports linking the France striker to Real Madrid.
There were claims from various Spanish media on Thursday that Mbappe has told PSG he wants a close-season switch to Madrid, the club that have been long-time admirers of the World Cup winner.
Mbappe has a contract that runs only until the end of next season, meaning there is an urgency about getting his situation resolved.
The 22-year-old’s importance to PSG was reflected in his two-goal showing against Bayern Munich in the Champions League this week, with Mbappe firmly established among the world’s most coveted forwards.
With his stature comes the guarantee that other clubs will be casting admiring glances his way, and the possibility that Mbappe will be tempted to leave the Parc des Princes.
Asked about the reports, PSG head coach Pochettino said: “This is something we are used to. When we talk about top clubs and top players such as Kylian Mbappe, who is world class, rumours will always be there.
“The most important thing is that Kylian Mbappe stays calm and focused on helping the team achieve its targets.
“He is very mature despite his young age. As I have already said, the club and the player are focused on trying to reach an agreement so that Kylian can stay with us for a long time.
“That is the club’s wish and we are working on everything. Something that happens on the outside is something we cannot control, but will it affect the team in terms of performance or the atmosphere here? No, not at all.”
Mbappe has 32 goals and nine assists across all competitions this season, with only Robert Lewandowski (42) and Erling Haaland (33) ahead of him on the goals front among players from Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues. Those goals from Mbappe have come at an average of one every 91.78 minutes.
Pochettino says the “mood is positive” in the PSG camp after their 3-2 win at Bayern, which puts them in the driving seat ahead of Tuesday’s home leg of the quarter-final.
Saturday sees his team face Strasbourg in Ligue 1, and it remains to be seen what team Pochettino fields, given PSG have ground to make up on leaders Lille.
At the same time they would not want to risk key players being injured ahead of the Bayern return game, and Pochettino said in his Friday news conference there are “a lot of players that will be unavailable”.
PSG have won just one of their last six away games against Strasbourg in Ligue 1 (L2 D3), after winning five of their previous six (D1).
Their form after Champions League games is also a cause for concern, having lost after each of their last three European matches.
There is little room for another such slip-up this weekend, with PSG having already suffered eight defeats after 31 games in their domestic league campaign.
That is their highest tally of losses at this stage of a season since 2009-10, when they were beaten 12 times and finished 13th in the French top flight.
At least PSG have strong recent away form in Ligue 1, having won on each of their last four trips.
Pochettino spoke about the challenge of balancing domestic and Champions League commitments, which make for a busy schedule at this stage of the season.
Pochettino went through similar when he led Tottenham to the 2019 Champions League final, and he said the task “is not easy for the players”.
But there is a distinct difference this season, as Pochettino pointed out.
“At Tottenham there was no pandemic we are experiencing now and that makes things more complicated,” he said. “The COVID-19 factor cannot be managed. It is something that affects every team in a completely different way.
“I think that is something we will find out more about over time in terms of how it affected the players, but we have to adapt as well as we can to be competitive.”