TANGIERS: Neymar will not be there but Kylian Mbappe will be as Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain meet in the Champions Trophy, the traditional curtain-raiser to the French season, in Morocco on Saturday evening.
They have been the two biggest transfer sagas of the summer in Europe, with PSG ready to break the bank for Barcelona and Brazil star Neymar while Monaco try to resist interest in their teen sensation Mbappe.
But amid the talk that the side from the French capital are preparing pay his 222 million-euro (£199 million, $261 million) release clause, the Brazilian remains in the United States with Barcelona for now.
PSG came to Tangiers having themselves been in the States on a pre-season tour, and skipper Thiago Silva was forced to bat away questions about his Brazil team-mate on Friday.
“I know it is important because I have played with him at international level. But now is not a good time to discuss it. We have a match on Saturday, and after the match we will be able to talk about it,” Silva said.
“Everyone knows what I think about Neymar. He is my friend, we have been playing together at international level for seven years. We have a very open relationship. This is the moment where he must decide.”
If those comments suggest a deal could be completed soon, Paris coach Unai Emery insists he is focusing purely on the players he currently has at his disposal. They include new signings Dani Alves and Yuri Berchiche, the two full-backs.
“For me, the best players in the world are in our dressing room,” Emery said on Friday.
“The transfer window shuts on August 31. A lot of clubs start the season and will maybe have a very different team by the time the window closes,” added Emery, who is without the banned Angel di Maria and the unfit Julian Draxler here.
Monaco are already a very different team to the one that won the Ligue 1 title in such style last season, with Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy joining Manchester City, Tiemoue Bakayoko going to Chelsea and Valere Germain moving to Marseille, among others.
Those sales have raised in excess of 150 million euros, and Mbappe could reportedly bring in as much as 180 million euros more.
Spanish sports daily Marca reported on Tuesday that an agreement had been reached “in principle” for Real Madrid to pay that amount for the 18-year-old.
Of course, the French international forward, who hails from the Paris suburbs, is also a target for PSG.
But while Monaco have made new signings including Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans, they cannot afford to lose any more of their title-winning stars and at least Mbappe will be there for their first official game as new champions.
“Kylian is a Monaco player. In recent weeks he has done a lot of work to get back to the level he was at last season,” said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim at a press conference on Friday evening.
The match, which kicks off at 8pm local time (1900 GMT), brings together France’s reigning champions and Cup holders and comes a week before the Ligue 1 season begins.
PSG have won the last four editions as the champions but are in this year’s event as French Cup winners having lost their league title to the principality side.
This is the ninth straight year the game has been staged outside France. It came to Tangiers in 2011, when Marseille beat Lille 5-4, while bizarrely PSG beat Lyon last year in an almost empty stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria.
Going abroad is part of the French league’s attempts to increase global interest in their competition, although bringing Neymar to Ligue 1 and keeping Mbappe there is surely a better way to attract attention from outside.