OSAKA — The spectre of superstar striker Kylian Mbappe loomed over Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) yesterday as they played out a 0-0 draw with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in Osaka.
Mbappe was sensationally left out of the squad on the eve of PSG’s departure for their Asian tour, casting doubt on his future at the French champions.
The club has received a world record bid of 300 million euros (US$333 million) from Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal, a source close to the negotiations told AFP on Monday.
Such a transfer could only be made with the agreement of Mbappe, who has never expressed an interest in moving to the fast-growing Saudi league.
Among other clubs to have expressed an interest in the most potent forward in world football are Real Madrid, the source said.
Former PSG and Cameroon striker Patrick M’Boma, who now works with PSG’s academies in Japan, expressed his disappointment at the ongoing impasse and said he hoped “a solution will be found quickly because he’s a player we want to watch”.
Japanese fans had flocked to stadiums to see Lionel Messi, Mbappe and Neymar strut their stuff in a series of friendlies for PSG last year, but with none of that trio on show this time, interest has waned.
Messi has departed for Major League Football side Inter Miami and Neymar has been out with a knee injury since February and only just returned to full training.
The impact of that change in circumstances was evident in the relatively modest crowd of 25,432 in Osaka, and they didn’t have much to cheer as PSG and Al Nassr played out a goalless 90 minutes.
“Kylian Mbappe is a great player and he’s not here,” PSG defender Danilo Pereira said after the game.
“That’s a decision of the club, I can’t comment.”
The closest either side came to scoring was in just the second minute as Carlos Soler tried an ambitious free-kick from distance, but Al Nassr goalkeeper Nawaf Alaqidi was equal to the attempt.
Ronaldo also drew cries from the spectators on a couple of occasions.
First he was denied from six yards by Gianluigi Donnarumma, before an acrobatic overhead kick went wide of the target — although it wouldn’t have counted because he was offside.
Ultimately, Mbappe’s absence was again the major talking point though.
There have been suggestions that he would not be selected for an entire year if he fails to find a solution with PSG.
The 24-year-old has one year left on his contract with the club, who want him to leave now rather than for nothing next summer.
PSG will next play Cerezo Osaka on Friday, before travelling to Tokyo to take on Inter Milan. — AFP