Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim has claimed that star striker Kylian Mbappe was left on the bench last weekend “to protect him” rather than as a punishment.
The 18-year-old sensation reportedly wants away from the French champions, with Paris Saint-Germain his favoured destination but Real Madrid also reportedly ready to pay 180 million euros ($211 million) for his services.
Mbappe started Monaco’s first two competitive matches of the season but sat on the bench for the duration of the principality club’s 4-1 Ligue 1 victory at Dijon on Sunday.
Jardim said after that match that dropping Mbappe was a “decision by the club” but the Portuguese coach told media on Wednesday that it was not taken to punish the French international.
“We never punish our players. That is not the right word. ‘Protected’ is a better word. When so many things are happening around an 18-year-old kid, it is our responsibility to protect him,” said Jardim.
“That means me, Vadim (Vasilyev, the vice-president) and the sporting director (Antonio Cordon). It is always to protect the squad, the player and the club.
“Kylian is not at 100 percent. He is not in great form. But that is to be expected of a kid who is just 18… Even you (journalists), if tomorrow another newspaper offers you a contract where you will earn 15 times more, you won’t be so good when it comes to tapping the keys on your computer keyboard,” he added with a smile.
Mbappe, whose Monaco contract runs until June 2019, could again be left out when his side travel to Metz on league duty on Friday evening.
“The philosophy at AS Monaco is to play those who are at 100 percent and totally available to the squad,” said the coach, whose side have won their opening two Ligue 1 matches.
If he does not play, either Guido Carrillo or Adama Diakhaby will partner Radamel Falcao — scorer of a hat-trick in Dijon — against Metz.
Mbappe won his first four caps for France at the tail end of last season but Jardim accepted that the current situation puts at risk his chances of being called up for his country’s World Cup qualifier against the Netherlands at the end of the month.
But the former Sporting Lisbon boss is more concerned with what losing Mbappe might mean for his squad after seeing Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Valere Germain leave, amongst others, since winning the title.
“I always say we have to adapt. Those who stay are always the most important. The objective is to be able to play well with those who remain. That is the mentality. I never cry about those who leave.
“I know the transfer market. Twenty percent of it is about buying players to strengthen the team and the other 80 percent is about weakening the opposition and messing things up for everyone else.
“It is a strategy. There are only two weeks left. After that it’s finished.”