While Neymar’s future remains in the balance, Paris Saint-Germain are all set to launch the defence of their Ligue 1 title in the upcoming weekend.
The Brazilian superstar has been linked with a return to his former club Barcelona all summer and has been urged to remain at Paris by team-mate Kylian Mbappe.
“Everyone loves him and I love him so much,” Mbappe had said about Neymar following PSG’s 2-1 win over Rennes in the Champions Trophy clash in Shenzhen, China.
“I don’t want him to leave the team, obviously. I want him to stay. When you think about his situation and then he plays very well and he co-operates with the team you can see what he means to us.”
While Neymar’s future remains up in the air, Mbappe has reiterated his commitment to PSG following his controversial remarks about seeking ‘new challenges’ in the Ligue 1 award ceremony held in May.
“I think it wasn’t the right place (to say that),” Mbappe was quoted as saying by AFP.
“I’d like to say sorry to the players who were there, because I spoiled the party.”
While PSG have captured six of the last seven Ligue 1 titles on offer, Champions League success continues to elude them and German playmaker Julian Draxler is desperate to make amends on that front in the upcoming season.
The French side bowed out in the Round of 16 in the 2018-19 season to Manchester United despite gaining a 2-0 first-leg advantage away from home.
“It hurts a lot, it hurts still that we did not go through,” Draxler told AFP.
“But from the potential in the team, we are ready to go far in the Champions League,” the German added.
While progress on the European front will be primary for PSG in the upcoming season, they will be further emboldened in their domestic pursuits with their rivals losing key players over the summer.
Lille winger Nicolas Pepe has departed for Arsenal while Lyon have lost the services of Nabil Fekir, Tanguy Ndombele and Ferland Mendy. Losing three key players in one go has seen Lyon struggle in pre-season with new boss Sylvinho finding the going tough.
The former Barcelona and Arsenal left-back has a massive challenge on his hands if Lyon are to put an end to PSG’s domestic dominance. Another manager who will be keenly followed over the course of the season is Andres Villas-Boas with the Portuguese manager making a return to football after an 18-month break.
Paris Saint-Germain trained in Shenzhen on Wednesday afternoon, hours after the French Ligue 1 champions arrived in the city in the southern part of China.
Neymar joined the practice session – to the delight of local fans.
The Brazil star has been linked with a return to Barcelona, but former France midfielder Youri Djorkaeff, now a PSG club ambassador, played down the transfer talk.
“When you are a big player, when you are a star, it’s normal that everyday, clubs want to buy you,” he said.
PSG open their tour against Inter Milan on Saturday followed by a game against Sydney FC on July 30.
To finish, they face French Cup winners Rennes FC for the Trophee des Champions at the Shenzhen Universiade Stadium on August 3 before returning to France for the start of the Ligue 1 season.
Lyon midfield prospect Houssem Aouar admitted that he would love to play under Pep Guardiola.
The Frenchman has formed a promising duo with Tanguy Ndombele in Lyon’s midfield and it’s only a matter of time before one of them is snapped up by a bigger club.
Aouar praised Guardiola, who he claimed as his reference as a coach. The 20-year-old did not shy away from admitting that he would love to play under the Spaniard.
“It is a great European club and all players have this urge to play for the biggest European clubs, which in addition is led by Guardiola, who for me is a reference as a coach.
“Guardiola has seen everything before. It is extremely good to play his teams and that’s what I like, his way of seeing football.”
However, Aouar did honour his commitment to the club and maintained that making a mark at Lyon first is still the top priority.
“I’m still under contract with Lyon,” he added. “I would like to leave a mark on the history of this club.
“After this season there is a new direction, a new coach [Sylvinho]. We will have to sit down and discuss the role I can have. I’m ready to have a technical leadership role.
“I’m a technical leader in the field and especially as a leader in the locker room, so there we go, we will discuss and then we will make decisions with the club.”