Leonardo Says PSG Must 'Rejoice' They Have 'Adorable' Kylian Mbappe and Neymar

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2020

Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar (L) jokes with Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian MBappe prior to the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Montpellier Herault SC at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on February 1, 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo has encouraged the club and fans to "rejoice" that they have "adorable" Kylian Mbappe and Neymar among their ranks following recent criticisms.

Mbappe, 21, drew negative attention after he appeared to argue with manager Thomas Tuchel on the sidelines following his substitution in the 5-0 league win over Montpellier on February 1.

Leonardo told Canal Plus (h/t Goal's Alex Shaw) after PSG defeated Lyon 4-2 on Sunday that he was uncomfortable with some of the scrutiny aimed at the forward:

"I heard things about Mbappe, on his personality. It makes me feel uncomfortable. If a player leaves the field, and talks to the coach, OK ... He is at fault. We will talk about it and settle this.

"But to say that he is a spoiled child, I don't accept that. Because he's an adorable, very committed person and a fantastic player."

Mbappe has scored 23 goals in 27 appearances this season, but journalist Philippe Auclair told Off The Ball there are tensions between him and his German manager:

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PSG's director then asked an attending journalist to name the best five players in the world, and the response included Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah, Mbappe and Neymar.

Leonardo replied: "In the top four, there is one 35 years old, another 32 years old and the other two they are 28 and 21 years old. And these two are with us. Let us rejoice. I am a happy sports director. We should take advantage of that. It's the joy of football. We have to stop talking about the problems."

Neymar has also attracted headlines for his lavish "all-white" 28th birthday party earlier in February, which came the day after he played 90 minutes in that thrashing of Montpellier, per AS. The Brazilian hasn't featured in either of PSG's wins over Nantes or Lyon in the week since because of an apparent rib injury.

The club's fans have shown their displeasure with Neymar in the past. They booed him for much of his first appearance of this season against Strasbourg in September—he went on score a sensational injury-time winner in the match.

Injuries and suspensions led to a disrupted 2019 at the Parc des Princes for Neymar, and Rory Smith of the New York Times referred to his €222 million transfer from Barcelona as a failure in early February:

The South American recently tied level with Mbappe and club legend Carlos Bianchi after scoring in an eighth consecutive French fixture, but consistency will be key to winning over any lost supporters.

Mbappe is a 2018 FIFA World Cup winner with France, but there are perhaps concerns about his PSG contract, which is due to expire in 2022. Real Madrid have been frequently linked with his signature, but Marca's Jose Felix Diaz wrote that PSG won't negotiate a transfer.

Football writer Jeremy Smith referred to Angel Di Maria as the real attacking hero of this PSG side in recent times, despite having nowhere near the same prestige as Neymar or Mbappe:

Leonardo's praise of Mbappe in particular may not go down well with a fanbase who recently saw the youngster stage an apparent protest in public against his manager.  

The club will hope Neymar recovers from his injury in time to face Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League last 16, with the French giants set to travel to the Westfalenstadion for the first leg on February 18.

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