Emmanuel Petit on PSG-Barcelona, why Luis Enrique has won him over and advice for Kylian Mbappe at Real Madrid

Ahead of Barcelona’s clash with Paris Saint-Germain, Football España caught up with ex-Barcelona player and French World Cup-winner Emmanuel Petit. 

Barcelona are looking to put three somewhat traumatic years in Europe behind them, while Paris Saint-Germain continue to hunt for their first trophy. Do you feel the weight of history behind these clubs, or is this something of a media invention?

You feel the weight of the club. When you come into a club with a huge European history, you feel it. Especially when you go to a club like Real Madrid, and you see their trophy cases with all the cups they have won, in some clubs when you leave the dressing room, you see a motto or something on the wall. So you know the history and the tradition. And Barcelona and Real Madrid are among those clubs.

But I think maybe nowadays, football has changed a lot, maybe something has changed in the player’s minds. They are a lot more mature, a lot of these players don’t even know the history of the clubs to be honest with you. Perhaps the last generation were the last ones to be focused on the history of football. I remember myself, with teammates, at the national team or at club level, we would be talking about the history of the club, with those players who knew it, how many trophies they have, how many finals they’ve reached, that sort of thing.

I don’t want to be rude, but I have the feeling that the new generation don’t care about that.


It’s not a groundbreaking question, but where will Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona win and lose this clash?

Barcelona had a lot of time to prepare the game, they haven’t played for over a week, at this stage of the season, playing every three days, you’re tired, so it’s very good for them. Paris Saint-Germain, I can’t remember the last time they lost a game. With PSG, you can expect everything, you can see the beautiful PSG and the terrible PSG in the same game. But the fact is that nobody has beaten them for months, and they have improved a lot since December.

The spine of the team has improved, Luis Enrique has improved a lot tactically too, in terms of management.

You would think that maybe Barcelona are not worth focusing on, because they are not having their best season, but then you look at their team, and they have a lot of players who could be a nightmare for PSG. Same the other way around, but it’s a very open game for me, very open, 50-50. It’s hard to predict who is going to win. I know I’m not doing anything remarkable saying this, but that’s the honest truth.

Even with Barcelona, I was commentating on their last two games against Napoli, and I was very impressed with some of their young players. Especially in the return game. They were very good, and they were better than Napoli in both games, so you can expect something from them. They have the talent to hurt you, so I think it will be a very open game.


Have relations between Luis Enrique and the French press softened in recent months, he seems to be enjoying a little more confidence of late? Why is that?

I think the press has been more interested in how Kylian Mbappe feels when he is substituted. We saw that in the game against Marseille, and they were saying he was very upset leaving the stadium. But he doesn’t do anything to calm the speculation, he put something up on social media, just a picture, but sort of saying I’m leaving.

I think Paris Saint-Germain is more important than Kylian Mbappe. There is no player, in any generation, that is more important than a club. They have already won Ligue 1, even if they drew against Clermont last weekend, they were already thinking about the Barcelona game. A lot of individual players have improved, collectively they’ve improved and tactically too.

It’s so surprising for me, because at the start of the season, I wouldn’t have put a penny on PSG winning the Champions League, but now, even City, they look vulnerable defensively, Bayern Munich too, they are having a terrible season in the Bundesliga, Real Madrid are still there obviously, but it’s very open.

As usual, for PSG it’s about Kylian Mbappe, he did it in the last game against Real Sociedad, and despite what we’ve spoken about, they can still win a treble, and Mbappe wants to leave in the right way.

I was not a big fan of Luis Enrique when he joined PSG, the way he was communicating, but to be honest with you, now I think, he’s right. How he is managing the players, he’s making fun of the press, he doesn’t care. And he’s right! I think this could be what was missing for Paris Saint-Germain in the past. A manager with cojones on the bench.


Could Kylian Mbappe’s exit help free up Paris Saint-Germain in some sense?

Luis Enrique has done something that the ones that came before him should have done, he put the stars on the same level as all the other players. Mbappe is very important, he knows that, he has a statue, he is important for the Ligue 1 TV rights, for the national team, but in Luis Enrique’s mind, it is not the individual he is thinking about, it is the team. And when you see that PSG has tried to implement a huge turnover, they are trying to avoid what happened last season with Lionel Messi, Neymar, they are trying to cut themselves adrift from the stars, and move towards a new vision. They don’t want that any more.

To be honest with you, this season it hasn’t changed, because the entire time we have been talking about Mbappe – individual, individual – not the team. It will be sad to see him leaving the club, leaving France, but I think, if PSG want to improve, they need stars and big players, but they need the team to be the star, just like Arsenal or Manchester City, Kevin de Bruyne, what he is doing is amazing, those kind of players are all amazing, but the team is more important than them. So it’s management, and it’s more important.

And if I have a piece of advice for Kylian Mbappe. Be careful if you go to Real Madrid. You won’t be able to do the same thing as you did at Paris Saint-Germain.


This interview was conducted with Genting Casino

Tags Barcelona Champions League Kylian Mbappe Luis Enrique Real Madrid
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