Leonardo on new Mbappé deal: "Money is secondary to him, it will take 2 minutes"
PSG's Director of Sport Leonardo gave an extensive interview to L'Équipe in which he spoke about Mbappé's contract renewal, Ramos, Pochettino, Zidane...
PSG's Director of Sport Leonardo gave an extensive interview to L'Équipe just one week away from the club's decisive Champions League meeting with Real Madrid. He revealed that he still has options to renew Kylian Mbappé's contract and added that striking a new deal is not about money but understanding the player's needs and ambitions.
Which is more important - renewing Mbappé's contract or beating Real Madrid? "It's difficult thinking about just one thing. When you consider where we are now, you can't forget about the path which enabled us to get here. It's important to remember that we have just come out of a very difficult pandemic. No getting much sleep at night is quite normal for me. When the day arrives that I don't have that, it'll be all over. My job is about enthusiasm - that's what motivates me".
In hindsight, was it a good idea to sign Ramos? "We signed him, he was in good physical shape. So far he has played five games. Unfortunately, it didn't go as we had planned. It's difficult for him, for all of us. But our files are quite clear. When the time comes for us to say that he is no longer able to play, it will be evident to everyone. But that isn't the case. Seeing as he isn't playing, it is much harder for him to be a leader. We'll wait for the season to end before drawing any conclusions. But I am not afraid to admit any mistakes I have made. Nasser has complete faith in me, he gives me total autonomy and I am very grateful to him for that. To be able to work in that way really gives you an incentive. And that's important. That's why I always say that PSG is a great club".
Le Parisien reported that Real Madrid have offered to pay Mbappé 50 million euros per year: "That's not true. No concrete offer has been made. There is an important element in all of this - I think that money will be the last issue to be discussed in the contract. We want to provide him with the best conditions so that he can become the best player in the world".
How important is money in securing a new deal for Mbappé? "Hardly at all. Because it';s not about that. Kylian is so appreciated that I think he's at peace with that - it's secondary to him. I think when it comes to talking about the actual amount, it will take two minutes right at the end of negotiations”.
Is Mbappé completely sure that he wants to stay at PSG? "A little more every day. It's a question of sentiment. French players, when they are starting out, want to play abroad. It's not coincidence that the majority of the players in the team which won the 1998 World Cup were players at foreign clubs. In 2018, Kylian was the only member of the national team who played in Ligue 1. Pogba and Griezmann have never played in Ligue 1, Zidane developed his career in other countries more than in France. But at that time, there was no club the size of PSG. We are not a selling club, that has an effect on a player's spirit. Now, I think that Kylian has thought everything through. The feeling at the stadium on Saturday was magnificent. Something is happening. I don't want to sound cheesy, but other clubs don't have ultras like that. It could be a big problem".
Mbappé, the keystone of the project: "It's up to us to understand him and know what he needs at every moment. When you join a club which has possibly the best player in history (Messi), Neymar and him, you might think, who is the first in the pecking order, the second etc. But there is harmony within the team, a respect between them and is also helpful".
What percentage chance would you give of Kylian signing a new deal? "I can't say, but we have a chance. While he still hasn't signed anything, we will do everything we can to keep him here. I don't think he'll be judged by the result of the Real Madrid tie. We have a new generation of players coming through, young players who are training with the first team squad, we plan to invest in other signings. What Qatar has done over the past 10 years has placed PSG among the big clubs. Today, the club is a reality, it is admired and respected".
Chances that Pochettino will continue and the possibility that Zidane could join: "He has a year left to run on his contract (June 2023). To be honest, we have never considered changing our coach. We have never made contact with Zidane or anyone else. Before he came here, Pochettino was among the five top coaches in the world and he still is. You can see the progression which the team has made under him, although a lot of things have happened. He is more involved because with time, you can grasp the context. Is Pochettino happy in Paris? Yes. I think maybe he had moments of doubt but he has never asked to leave. He's had some difficult times, in February or March he caught Covid. Then, in the summer, there were rumours that he might leave. I can tell you that no club asked about him and we didn't receive any phone calls. I don't have any problem with Pochettino. We are very clear with each other and talk about everything".
Winning the Champions League, the big objective: "When we started the project in 2011, 14 years after I had played my last game here, I returned because we wanted to build a great club. It's not only about winning the Champions League. It's completely different. Because a great club does well when it is winning but is also able to remain competitive when it loses. That's where we are today. We're not playing Russian Roulette every year. Obviously, the objective is to win the Champions League as well, we have never hidden that. But in 11 years we have built something solid. It's very difficult to stay constant".
Players (such as Neymar) who go out partying three days before a game: "Do you really think that a player who manages to remain at the peak for 12 years is really doing things he shouldn't? A lot of it is down to social media, that gives a version which doesn't reflect reality".