Mbappe broke a football rule with PSG comments

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The French legend gives his opinion on Kylian Mbappe’s decision to discuss club matters on international duty, and looks ahead to France’s chances at Euro 2024.

In our exclusive interview ahead of Euro 2024, the former Arsenal, Chelsea and France midfielder discusses his home country’s chances at the summer tournament, why he’s not surprised to see William Saliba out of the starting line-up, and Kylian Mbappe‘s decision to raise issues with Paris Saint-Germain in a France press conference.

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Are you surprised that William Saliba is unlikely to start in the centre of defence for France at Euro 2024?

A couple of weeks ago Didier Deschamps made some critiques about him, and that’s something that we didn’t understand, especially when considering the seasons he has had in the last two years. He’s probably one of the best defenders in England, in Europe and in the world.

It’s been the case in recent years with the French national team that we always have a lot of very good central defenders. The problem with Saliba is not whether he deserves to be in the first XI right now. The problem is that when Didier Deschamps wins games and competitions, he always puts his faith in those players. It’s very difficult for him to change the spine of the team. We all know that Ibrahima Konate and Dayot Upamecano have had their troubles recently, but because they have been Deschamps’ main men for the last two years, it would be a surprise for me if he changed and tried to play with Saliba, especially after what he said.

He could have an opportunity because Konate and Upamecano have been living through a difficult end of the season, so that could be a chance for him. You never know. I’ve seen by experience in the big competitions like this that the first XI sometimes may change after two or three games. If this opportunity comes, he has to grab it.

How do you think this France squad compares to your tournament-winning teams of 1998 and 2000?

I think we cannot compare the two teams, because generations are very different. When you look at the potential of this team right now, they have the luxury to make two very talented teams. Back in 1998 we were a bunch of probably 30 to 35 players, and we knew that it was very difficult sometimes to play without big players, because we didn’t have the options.

Didier Deschamps has the possibility to change whatever he wants. When you look at the attackers right now – and I have respect for my old teammates – but they have more options, more potential, more quality than 25 years ago. In the meantime, when you look at our defence, I think it was stronger in 1998 than the defence right now. We used to play with a No. 10, Zinedine Zidane, which never happened again in modern football. Griezmann has tried to do that and is doing very well, but he’s not Zidane, so I think it’s quite difficult to compare the two teams.

Kylian Mbappe goes into the tournament having just made his move to Real Madrid. Is this another chance for him to shine?

He knows that it has been a very difficult year for him on and off the pitch. He did have some comments a few days ago about Nasser Al-Khelaifi and the way he’s been treated by PSG, and I think he has to be very careful. When you play for the national team, you don’t talk about clubs in the press conference, and when you play for clubs, you don’t talk about national team. It’s the rule. Everybody knows that.

The last few years, some journalists tried to ask questions about Paris Saint-Germain when Mbappe was with the national team and every time he used to say: “Listen, I’m here for the national team, my club is not my concern. If you want to ask me a question about my club do it when I go back to my club.” He knows that it would be stupid to go into these game answering questions about Real Madrid or PSG.

When you sign for Real Madrid, the biggest club in the world, they won the Champions League so many times in the last few years, he’s going to come into a dressing room that knows how to win big trophies. With the serenity and the egos, it’s working well with Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid. Mbappe has a big, big, big ego, and he’s also very intelligent. Will he fit into the dressing room? I hope so, I wish it for him. But he knows that Real Madrid is not PSG. It’s a different world, and what he did in terms of his communication, you can’t do that at Real Madrid. It’s impossible.

How would you have reacted as a senior player when a team-mate spoke about club matters on international duty?

In my time, sometimes when you would cross the line or go over the top, you would get some players or even the manager coming to you and trying to explain that this is not the way to do things. I hope that nowadays in modern football things like this still happen. In my time, we used to be very close and very helpful as well. We tried to support our team-mates.

I’m pretty sure it’s the same now, but I have the feeling that they are more in the ego zone all the time, thinking: “The most important thing for me right now is me, not the team.” I have the feeling sometimes that players really have to be very careful about their communication, especially with social media. I don’t know how I could relate, actually, because I think we were lucky to play without this. For me, it’s a danger, so they have to learn about it.

Which players are you most excited to watch this summer?

I’m very happy that N’golo Kante is back. Everybody loves him here. Everybody was happy to see him back in the national team, and there is a question about what can he bring.

But if there is one player with the national team, if he has a chance to play and the opportunity to get minutes, then watch Bradley Barcola.

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