Transfer news: What PSG-Real Madrid UCL final could mean for Kylian Mbappe…

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PSG deserved their comeback victory against Barcelona

PSG’s comeback against Barcelona last week was superb, and in many ways arguably more impressive than La Remontada of 2017, because PSG just blew Barca away, rather than through any major refereeing controversy. I’m sure there will be a debate about the referee’s role in it, especially after Xavi’s comments after the game, but it doesn’t feel at all the same level as the Remontada of seven years ago, so I don’t buy that argument about Barca’s elimination from Xavi and his staff.

I think, overall, Luis Enrique got his game plan and his starting XI absolutely correct. I think the fact that he didn’t make a substitution until the final ten minutes shows that he absolutely nailed his team selection, which he didn’t do in the first leg, and I think that was a huge difference.

Achraf Hakimi being available again made a big difference, as it meant Enrique didn’t need to re-jig his defence again like he did in the first game – he took his team selection back to basics and it made a lot more sense than some of the decisions he made in the first leg, and consequently PSG put in a very good performance.

It’s important to remember that PSG started very well and that Barca scored their goal against the run of play. Ultimately, PSG’s dominance of the game had them where they deserved to be over the remainder of the game – they ultimately created the better chances. Of course Barcelona had a few more chances as they chased the game and Marquinhos made some important interventions for PSG, but ultimately there was only one team that deserved to win that second leg.

For PSG to turn it around the way they did, not only after losing the first leg at home, which is not something we see often – the last 25 teams to do so in the Champions League haven’t been able to turn it around – but then to go a further goal down as well, that speaks volumes for the team spirit that Enrique has created in this group. I think PSG are now made of much stronger stuff than in the past.

Bradley Barcola was really impressive, playing brilliantly in the second half of the first leg and for most of the second leg. Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha also shone across both matches, so those were some of the calls that Enrique got right and it’s a reminder of the good work PSG have done in the transfer market in recent times.

Enrique has generally managed his squad really well, in terms of rotating and keeping players fresh. People were talking earlier in the year of his supposed harsh treatment of Mbappe, but this rotation in Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France has kept his key players as fresh as possible for these big games in Europe, and the result of that is PSG getting to the semi-finals and having a proper shot at making the final.

Could we now be heading for a dramatic PSG vs Real Madrid final?

PSG will now face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semi-finals and some fans will obviously be looking ahead to a potential final against Real Madrid while Mbappe’s future is still up in the air, though I think it’s important to take these things one step at a time.

Can PSG be confident of getting past Dortmund in the semis? Absolutely. When you look, even though PSG finished behind Dortmund in the group stage earlier this season, they won at home and didn’t lose away, and if those results were to be replicated that would be enough to see PSG through to the final. Despite other results not going PSG’s way in the group stages, notably Newcastle and AC Milan away, I think PSG can be confident of getting past Dortmund.

Dortmund showed fantastic character to overcome Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals, but so too did PSG against Barcelona, and overall if you’re looking at both squads, in terms of difference-makers, you’d have to back PSG. They play the away leg first, which should favour PSG, similarly to when they met in 2020 just before Covid – if PSG can keep it tight I think they’ll fancy themselves to get past Dortmund and reach the final.

Kylian Mbappe is expected to seal a transfer to Real Madrid

In terms of the final and a possible show-down with Real Madrid, it’s impossible not to consider this outcome, but, equally, there’s the possibility of a re-match of PSG and Bayern after their final meeting in 2020 – the only final PSG have ever made it to.

Still, as long as PSG and Real Madrid are both in the Champions League, there won’t be any clarity over Mbappe’s future. I don’t think there’ll be an official announcement from either club regarding his future, and in many ways, because of the potential optics of the two teams playing each other in the final, I think that could delay things even further. Then we’d be looking at probably closer to the end of Mbappe’s contract at the end of June, which then probably brings onto the horizon the possibility of Mbappe going to the Euros still with no announcement as to where his future lies.

Some people have asked me, would PSG beating Real in the final convince Mbappe to change his mind? I don’t think it would, I think it’s advanced to the point now that the expectation is that he will go to Madrid, it’s just about how it plays out. Obviously it would probably be less complicated and there would be less drama if it wasn’t PSG vs Real Madrid in the final, but, if it is, then I think there will be a focus, certainly on PSG’s side, that is more than just Mbappe against Real Madrid and what happens next; it’s a team effort and everything to get PSG there will have been collective, so I think they’ll try to down-play the Mbappe focus as much as possible.

But, step by step – first of all, we’re set for two really enthralling semi-finals, and there’s a lot that can and will happen. I think, looking at Real going up against Bayern Munich, there’s really now a strong case for Thomas Tuchel to try and work his magic and salvage something from this season with Bayern. There’s been speculation about Ralf Rangnick taking over from him once he leaves at the end of the season, but I’ve been wondering recently if there was a possibility of something similar to the situation with Xavi at Barcelona happening with Tuchel, should he lead Bayern to Champions League success.

Still, it looks like Tuchel himself will be a man in demand elsewhere, so imagine if he was to sign off with a Champions League success with Bayern before potentially going somewhere else and maybe returning to the Premier League – that would be an impressive achievement, particularly with how wretched Bayern’s season has been at times. So despite Mbappe and Real Madrid, there are a lot of other intriguing subplots that could play out in the final stages of this competition.

More joy for Ligue 1 sides in Europe as Marseille have a realistic shot at reaching the Europa League final

Marseille are through to the semi-finals of the Europa League and will play Atalanta. I’ve seen a lot of people saying that maybe Liverpool would’ve been a more favourable draw for Marseille, but I think they’d much rather be coming up against Atalanta. As much as Atalanta have done really well to get here and are in contention to get into the Champions League either through their league position in Serie A or by winning the Europa League title, I think that Marseille will feel that perhaps a lack of consistency from Gian Piero Gasperini’s side in comparison to Liverpool, they will feel that this is probably the better route for them.

Though, obviously, if you’d offered Liverpool in their current form to Marseille then I think you’d fancy them, with the Reds’ form dropping off a cliff massively, especially since that 3-0 loss at home to Atalanta. But in general this European run for OM is massive – they’ve been a different team in the Europa to in Ligue 1, where they’ve not been that great this season, so I think this is their best shot at being in Europe next season.

It’s going to be difficult for Marseille to be consistent enough to get the results they need in the league while they’re still in Europe, but as long as they’re still in the competition then I think they’re going to fancy themselves. If they can keep things tight in the away leg against Atalanta then I think they’ll feel confident that the Stade Velodrome crowd can roar them onto success, as it did against Benfica.

The way that the semi-finals are weighted at the moment, it probably favours an Italian team more in terms of going on to win it, but I think Marseille will feel that they certainly have a chance have a real say on what happens, and I think so much of it depends on what happens in the away leg. If Marseille can avoid getting turned over in a similar way to how Liverpool got blown away, then Marseille will feel they’ll be able to do enough at home – you saw against Villarreal that the atmosphere destroyed the La Liga side.

If Marseille can replicate that and build up a comfortable lead at home then I think they’ll really see themselves as having a shot at reaching the final.

Desire Doue attracting interest after superb form for Rennes

There have been some transfer rumours circulating about Rennes wonderkid Desire Doue – he’s a very talented young player, very exciting. He’s still just 18 years old and looked a bit in and out at Rennes earlier this season, not necessarily seeing eye to eye with the management, but he’s now having a really good season.

I think his development is going really well, and his maturity has come on leaps and bounds, with the player now earning a bit more trust and being utilised to the best of his ability. A lot of clubs are now interested in his situation, and would be very happy to pick him up should he become available.

There was a scenario when he might’ve gone out on loan in the January transfer window, though obviously that situation has turned around quite substantially now and it’s bigger clubs showing an interest. I think the biggest thing that affects his future now will be whether or not Rennes qualify for Europe or not. At the moment they’re just a little bit behind the main spots and it’s going to be tough for them to really move up too many positions before the end of the season. They’re 7th now but four points behind Lens, six points behind Nice, so the best-case scenario for them is possibly 6th, but I’m not sure I see Lens falling away enough, while with Nice, it depends on if they can rescue themselves from this recent slump in form.

If PSG win the Coupe de France against Lyon then 7th position in Ligue 1 actually becomes a qualifying position in Europe, so that could impact Doue’s future. So that’s definitely something to keep an eye on – I think if Rennes do secure European football for next season then I think it would make the most sense for him to stay. If they miss out, there’ll be no shortage of potential takers for Doue.

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