SAINT-GERMA-EN-LAYE, France, Feb 3 – Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel on Monday attempted to play down a touchline spat with Kylian Mbappe which overshadowed the French champions’ big weekend win over Montpellier.
“There is nothing personal between him and me. These things happen,” said Tuchel after Mbappe reacted angrily to being substituted midway through the second half of PSG’s 5-0 victory at the Parc des Princes, with Mauro Icardi taking his place.
“It was between a player who does not want to come off, and a coach who had his reasons for doing something, and who wanted to give a game to players who deserved it.”
After Saturday’s match, Tuchel admitted that the reaction of Mbappe “doesn’t look good” and pointed out that: “This is football, not tennis, and you have to respect everyone.”
The 21-year-old World Cup winner, who had scored his 14th league goal of the season in the victory, exchanged words with Tuchel as he came off, and then stormed to his seat on the bench, throwing away a training top in disgust.
Tuchel said he discussed the matter again at training on Sunday, with the player and with Leonardo, the club’s sporting director.
“I spoke about it yesterday with Leo, of course, and with the squad, as we generally do. But what I said will remain in the dressing room,” added Tuchel, speaking before PSG return to league action on Tuesday away to Nantes.
Returning to the incident, he added: “We had the game wrapped up, and it was a chance to take off Pablo (Sarabia) and Kylian, and put on Mauro and ‘Edi’ (Cavani), who deserved to get some minutes.
“I know it is hard to accept for some players, but these are sporting matters that they should be able to understand.”
– Neymar birthday ‘not the best’ preparation –
With PSG returning to action in midweek, and also having a Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund looming ever closer on the horizon, Tuchel could also be excused for being less than impressed with Neymar’s latest off-field antics.
The Brazilian — who sported a pink hair-do in the win against Montpellier — organised a lavish celebration ahead of his 28th birthday at a Parisian nightclub in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on Sunday, including an all-white dress code.
Tuchel insisted that the event, to which Neymar invited all his team-mates, would not have an influence on his team selection for Tuesday’s trip to face a Nantes side who sit ninth in the table.
The Brazilian, however, will not be risked due to a rib complaint, the club said late on Monday.
“I always protect my players, and I really love my team. With this party, I accept that it is a bit difficult to protect the players, but the context is not simply black or white,” Tuchel said.
“Is it the best way to prepare for a match? No, clearly not. Is it the worst thing in the world? No.
“It is a shame, because we are giving people the chance to speak badly of us. We need to adapt to the situation, but I am not going to leave a player on the bench or at home because they went out and celebrated.”
PSG, who are 12 points clear of Marseille at the Ligue 1 summit, do have defensive injury problems just now, though, with Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Juan Bernat and Colin Dagba all out of Tuesday’s game.
Midweek fixtures in Ligue 1 (kick-offs 9pm unless stated)
Lille v Rennes, Monaco v Angers, Nantes v Paris Saint-Germain (11:05 pm)
Brest v Bordeaux, Lyon v Amiens, Montpellier v Metz, Nimes v Dijon, Reims v Nice, Toulouse v Strasbourg, Saint-Etienne v Marseille (11pm)