French World Cup-winner Kylian Mbappe urged troubled Brazilian Neymar to stay at Paris Saint-Germain on Friday as he apologised for sparking speculation about his own future at the club.
Mbappe, speaking before the Champions Trophy against Rennes in Shenzhen, China, said Neymar was a key player for the French league-winners who are desperate for success in Europe next season.
“Everyone loves him and I love him so much,” Mbappe said of Neymar, who has been linked with a return to his former club Barcelona.
“I don’t want him to leave the team, obviously. I want him to stay. When you think about his situation and then he plays very well and he co-operates with the team you can see what he means to us.”
The 20-year-old Mbappe, who smashed 33 goals for PSG last season, also doused any lingering concerns over his own plans after he talked about playing “elsewhere” at the French league awards ceremony in May.
“I think it wasn’t the right place (to say that),” he told reporters in southern Chinese city. “I’d like to say sorry to the players who were there, because I spoiled the party.”
It has been a troubled few months for Neymar, who earned a three-match ban after an altercation with a fan as Rennes stunned PSG on penalties to win the French Cup in April.
Neymar also missed Brazil’s triumphant Copa America campaign on home soil after suffering an ankle injury in a warm-up friendly against Qatar.
And the 27-year-old has been embroiled in rape allegations, vehemently denied, which were dismissed by Brazilian police on Monday for lack of evidence.
“He is still the same Neymar,” said Mbappe of his team-mate, who trained with the rest of the squad on Friday.
“We all know he is in very special circumstances. However he is training with us and he is still performing his best which is not unusual and after all he is a very good player.”
Mbappe said he hoped to improve on his 33-goal tally next season, adding that Qatar-owned PSG also want to take the elusive next step in the Champions League.
“We’re going to try to win the two national trophies, to not leave matches to chance,” he said. “After that there’s the Champions League, which everyone’s looking at… we have to take that step.
“We’ve found our way blocked the last few years. It’s up to us to find a way to go as far as possible.”