Paris Saint-Germain’s attack should be led by Kylian Mbappe, according to Nicolas Anelka, who has insisted that Lionel Messi “has to serve” the World Cup winner.
Mbappe has been a talismanic figure at PSG ever since his big-money move from Monaco in 2017, with the 22-year-old boasting 136 goals from his first 180 games for the club.
Four of those efforts have come at the start of the 2021-22 campaign, but Mbappe is having to share the spotlight with Neymar and summer signing Messi, who completed a free transfer to Parc des Princes after leaving Barcelona.
It has been suggested that Mauricio Pochettino will need to build his team around Messi in order to deliver the Ligue 1 title and Champions League, but Anelka thinks Mbappe deserves to be the main man in the PSG squad.
The former France international, who began his playing career at Parc des Princes, has told Le Parisien: “Mbappe has to lead the attack because he’s No.1.
“Messi was at Barcelona, but now he has to serve Mbappe. He’s been at the club for five years and Messi has to respect him.”
Anelka went on to address the ongoing speculation surrounding his compatriot’s future, with Real Madrid reportedly planning to bring in Mbappe when his current contract at PSG expires in June 2022.
Talks over a possible contract renewal for Mbappe have yet to progress, and Anelka can understand why he would be tempted to take on a new challenge at Santiago Bernabeu.
“He’s a phenomenal player in terms of his speed, there’s no one better on the planet,” he added. “If Paris want to have the best team, they have to do everything they can to keep him.
“But I think it’s very clear in Kylian’s head. He wants to see something else, and that makes sense. He’s dreaming of the Ballon d’Or, and how can he win it if he’s playing in the sixth-best league by UEFA coefficient?
“If Kylian had been in England or Spain for the last three years, he would have already won the Ballon d’Or.”
Anelka also weighed in on Messi’s reaction to being substituted early on his full PSG debut against Lyon on September 19, with it his belief that the Argentine coach has already done irreparable damage to his relationship with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Asked whether he sympathised with Messi’s apparent frustration over the change, Anelka replied: “Completely. You don’t take off a six-time Ballon d’Or winner in the 65th minute, when he hasn’t scored for his team. That plays with his head a lot.
“A forward needs his coach to show him confidence, and that right there won’t do it. I’m getting ahead of myself but Messi will not forget what Pochettino has done. It will stay with him. He’s the star of the team and it was his first game at the Parc des Princes. It’s going to be very difficult to recover from that as a situation.
“Messi didn’t play against Metz, and for me that’s already a response. You can’t manage Messi like that. The coach wanted to send out a strong message, which is good, but this is Messi.”