Kylian Mbappe and Neymar put their feud aside on Sunday as the two combined to lead PSG to a 1-0 victory in Le Classique over rivals Marseille in Ligue 1.
The French champions moved six points clear of Marseille after the top-of-the-table clash at the Parc des Princes. Parisian-born superstar Mbappe seemed to put his personal agenda aside as he teed up teammate Neymar for the only goal of the game, the Frenchman’s first assist of the season.
Although they were the fixture’s undoubted favourites, PSG were not in top-form going into the tie having drawn their last three games across all competitions. Furthermore, the recent reports of Mbappe being unhappy at the Club after a rift between the player and the board was bound to have an adverse influence on the dressing room.
However, the team showcased their quality and put in a solid defensive performance in the second half.
When questioned regarding the reports of a breakdown in relationship between himself and the Club, Mbappe seemingly denied all allegations of him being unhappy, stating the rumours are ‘completely false.’
“I never asked for my departure in January,” said the former Monaco player after the game. “The information that came out on the day of the [Champions League match against Benfica], I did not understand it. I am not involved in this information neither directly nor indirectly.
“I was as shocked by this news as everyone else. People may think I’m involved, I’m not at all. I was taking a nap, my entourage was at my little brother’s game. We were stunned when we found out. Afterwards, we had to deal with it, we had a match to play. I just wanted to say that it’s completely false, I’m very happy here.”
However, Mbappe’s tone may have changed due to the fact that manager Christophe Galtier altered his system on Sunday to cater for the 23-year-old.
The World Cup winner made it public recently that he doesn’t want to play as PSG’s main striker and would prefer to play off a target-man type striker, similar to what he does for France with Olivier Giroud.
In Sunday’s clash, Galtier deployed a 4-3-1-2 formation rather than the usual 5-4-1 structure. This placed Mbappe as part of a two-man strike force, which is what the player has reportedly been promised when he signed his new deal in May this year.
The PSG boss spoke after the game, claiming that the formational tweak wasn’t related to injury issues and was purely tactical.
“The change of system was not linked to absences, recent matches were slow. We started the season well, but the opponents had analysed us very well,” explained Galtier in his post-match interview.
“Against Marseille, I wanted to add people into the game. In my thinking, I also wanted to put my three attackers in their best positions. I was satisfied with the first 25 minutes. They assimilated very quickly.
“It’s very likely that we will continue to improve this system with training. After Benfica, we had a session to work on it and I wasn’t satisfied. On Saturday I was. I had very positive feedback at the end of the session on this new system.”
Galtier also added that the Mbappe drama hasn’t impacted the squad and that ‘everything is going well in the dressing room.’
“Nothing happens with Kylian. Obviously, I heard Kylian and heard not his discomfort, but the fact of really being in his preferred position, and that’s also why we looked for a different system.
“But believe me that everything is going well in the dressing room. I have players who have a big character and strong personalities, but who are very great professionals.”
Marco Verratti echoed his manager’s sentiments, stating that the players are used to heavy media attention for ‘small things,’ such have been the stars and egos that have walked through the PSG door.
“Everything’s fine,” said the Italian International midfielder. “Sometimes in Paris, a small thing passes for a big thing, but we are used to it. We do a little abstraction, we try to be focused on the field. We play every three days, we don’t have time to think about these things.
“We knew it would be a battle [against Marseille]. It was a tough game, which comes after three draws; it was a game to win absolutely.” The victory means the Parisians are still unbeaten in all competitions and sit on top of the Ligue 1 standings, three points ahead of the league’s surprise package Lorient. PSG face a trip to Ajaccio on Friday before the penultimate UEFA Champions League group stage encounter with Maccabi Haifa next week.