March 23, 2019
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French pundits fear departure of Mbappe following Zidane's return to Madrid

Paris, Mar 12 (efe-epa).- The reappointment of Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid's head coach has raised fears in France's sporting press that the national hero could seek to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe to play in the Spanish capital in 2019.

Mbappe, 20, announced Sunday in an interview with a French soccer program that he had no intention of leaving the Ligue 1 side, adding he would be at PSG for the 2019-2020 season.

However, the return of Mbappe's idol, Zidane, 46, to Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium has left the French press tense with speculation.

"Hazard and Mbappe Targeted," was the headline French sports paper L'Equipe ran Tuesday, in a nod to a possible deal between the French coach and the capital team's leadership to try and bring in an infusion of youth to Madrid, with Belgium and Chelsea striker Eden Hazard, 28, and Mbappe.

L'Equipe reported that Zidane had made requests from the Spanish club's president Florentino Perez conditional upon his returning to be the head coach, adding that picking up Mbappe to play on the Iberian side could be just want Madrid needed after the departure of Portugal star, Cristiano Ronaldo, 34, to Italian giant Juventus in the summer of 2018.

Le Parisien meanwhile bemoaned "The return of Zidane is anything but good news for PSG."

Le Parisien also said a Zidane-led Madrid could be vying to gobble up PSG forward Neymar Jr., 27, instead of Mbappe, underscoring that getting the Brazilian star playing at Madrid has been "an old dream of Perez."

Zidane, who quit the capital club last summer after winning three consecutive Champions League titles with the Spanish powerhouse, replaced Santiago Solari on Monday after Madrid crashed and burned in three anticipated competitions - all at the capital side's home pitch Santiago Bernabeu and two of which were against the capital club's nemesis Barcelona - in just one week.

On Monday, a club statement confirmed Solari's sacking and said: "The board of directors ... agreed on the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as head coach of Real Madrid with immediate effect for the remainder of the season and the next three campaigns, until June 30, 2022."

The Frenchman seemed to be the safest bet among the other candidates - which reportedly also included another former Madrid coach, the troubled Portuguese skipper Jose Mourinho - local media had linked with getting the team back on track.

Zidane's 1998 World Cup performance as a player cemented him in the minds of a generation of soccer fans as his heavy underdog French side thrashed mighty Brazil in a lopsided French national victory in Paris during which Zidane, as team captain, scored two goals as the Frenchmen went on to a 3-0 victory against the South American titans, giving France its first world cup victory before the 2018 French national soccer squad took a second star in Russia.

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