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regular-article-logo Monday, 05 June 2023

EURO qualifiers: Leader Kylian Mbappe seeks to be the ‘unifier’

Mbappe was named France captain to replace Hugo Lloris after 36-year-old goalkeeper announced his international retirement in January

Reuters Paris Published 24.03.23, 06:03 AM
Kylian Mbappe.

Kylian Mbappe. File picture

Kylian Mbappe’s main role as France captain will be to link the old and new generations of players in the squad, the Paris St Germain forward said on Thursday in his first news conference since getting the job.

Mbappe was named France captain to replace Hugo Lloris on Tuesday after the 36-year-old goalkeeper announced his international retirement in January.

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The 24-year-old Mbappe was given a specific task by coach Didier Deschamps.

“He wants me to be a unifier, to bring my team along with me. I am the link between the generations,” Mbappe said.

“I’m captain of my country, it’s something you can’t shirk. It’s a new responsibility. I’m going to take it on naturally, it’s not going to change how I play, but maybe the way I behave.”

Mbappe said vice-captain Antoine Griezmann had been disappointed by the decision. The 32-year-old forward has been a long-serving player for Deschamps, making his first appearance for his country in 2014.

“It’s an expected reaction. I told him I would have had the same reaction,” Mbappe said. “He is perhaps the most important player during the Deschamps era. I am not his hierarchical superior.

“He and I will be hand in hand to try to allow his team to impose itself on a global level. If he has something to say to the group, I’ll sit down and listen.”

Mbappe, who has been capped 66 times and played a key role in the team’s victorious 2018 World Cup campaign and their runners-up finish in 2022, said he would be different to Lloris.

“I don’t think the coach made me captain because he thought I was going to do exactly the same thing as Hugo,” he said.

Mbappe’s first match as skipper will be on Friday when France face the Netherlands at the Stade de France in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier. They play Ireland away on Monday.

Infection hits Holland

Five players in the Netherlands squad have been sent home after contracting a viral infection.

Liverpool forward Cody Gakpo, Bayern Munich defender Matthijs de Ligt, along with Sven Botman, Joey Veerman and Bart Verbruggen, all left the training camp, the Dutch federation said on Thursday. It did not elaborate on the virus.

The departures were another blow to coach Ronald Koeman ahead of the first match of his second stint in charge of the national team.

Pat from Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo. File picture

Riyadh: Cristiano Ronaldo said he has been surprised by the level of competitiveness in the Saudi Pro League since joining Al Nassr in January.

“I think you should look at the (Saudi Pro League) in a different way,” he told reporters. “I’m not going to say that the league is a Premier League, that would be a lie.

“But it’s a very competitive league that I’m positively surprised by, a very balanced league and good teams.

“I am sure that in the coming years the league will be ... the fourth, fifth or sixth most competitive league in the world,” added Ronaldo, who moved to Al-Nassr on a two-and-a-half-year contract worth a reported €200 million euros ($214.71 million).

Reuters

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