PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain kicked off their title defence with a 0-0 draw at home to Lorient on Saturday as Kylian Mbappe watched from the stands amid his ongoing contract dispute with the French champions.
After a summer of flux at the Parc des Princes filled with new arrivals and Lionel Messi’s departure, it is the Mbappe stand-off that continues to dominate the headlines.
The France captain has refused to sign an extension to his PSG deal, meaning he can leave for free next year, with Real Madrid long seen as his preferred destination.
PSG want to sell him now and bring in a significant transfer fee for a player who cost €180 million (US$198 million) from Monaco in 2017.
New coach Luis Enrique on Friday said he hoped a solution can be found, but Mbappe has not been allowed train with the first team and was left out of the squad to face Lorient.
Instead he sat alongside fellow 2018 World Cup winner Ousmane Dembele, who completed his transfer from Barcelona earlier in the day, as Luis Enrique handed debuts to six players.
Goncalo Ramos started in a new-look attack with Marco Asensio and Lee Kang-in, while Milan Skriniar and Lucas Hernandez began in defence as the impressive Uruguayan Manuel Ugarte lined up in midfield.
Neymar missed the season opener because of a viral infection, and the club are reported to be open to selling both the Brazilian and midfielder Marco Verratti if a suitable offer is made.
Ramos, who has joined on an initial loan deal from Benfica, nearly grabbed his first PSG goal inside 10 minutes when his bending effort was superbly clawed away by Yvon Mvogo.
Lorient captain Laurent Abergel hit the outside of the post from distance after pinching the ball deep in PSG’s half, but both sides struggled to create clear chances.
PSG controlled possession but lacked penetration until Fabian Ruiz forced another fine stop from Mvogo after latching onto Carlos Soler’s cut-back.
Ramos then glanced a header wide before Vitinha and Ugarte both went close in the closing stages as PSG had to settle for a point.
Pressed again on the subject of Mbappe after the match, Luis Enrique refused to comment further.
“I have nothing to say on the matter. I already told you yesterday what I thought of it,” he said.
Marseille up and running
Marseille came from behind to beat Reims 2-1 at the Velodrome as Portuguese striker Vitinha struck the winner.
Japan international Junya Ito volleyed Reims ahead early but Morocco midfielder Azzedine Ounahi curled in a brilliant equaliser from 25 yards.
Ito had the ball in the net again before half-time but saw his effort ruled out after replays showed the ball went out of play in the build-up.
Vitinha, signed from Braga in January, also had an effort disallowed but scrambled home with just over 15 minutes left as Marseille bounced back from their midweek defeat in the Champions League.
“It’s a step forward compared to Panathinaikos,” said Marseille coach Marcelino, who watched his side lose 1-0 in Greece in his first game in charge.
They must overturn that deficit on Tuesday in order to stay in the hunt for a place in the Champions League group stage.
“It was an important match because we were coming off a defeat. The big teams have to react quickly after a setback,” added Marcelino.
“It’s a confidence boost for everyone. This win helps us enormously, to believe in our ourselves and to keep striving to get better.” — AFP