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Ligue 1: Mbappe keeps PSG rolling with superb winner (video)

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PARIS (AP) — Kylian Mbappe displayed his match-winning abilities once again Sunday, scoring off balance with a superb volley as Paris Saint-Germain beat Saint-Etienne 1-0 to move 12 points clear at the top of the French league.

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Latching onto a clever lobbed pass from veteran Dani Alves over the defense, Mbappe was at full stretch yet still hooked a powerful shot into the top left corner while sliding forward to meet the ball in the 73rd minute.

He then sprinted to the bench to celebrate his league-leading 19th goal and 24th overall this season with coach Thomas Tuchel.

It was also Mbappe’s second important strike in the matter of days, where he has led the attack impressively in the absence of Neymar and Edinson Cavani .

The 20-year-old France forward netted Tuesday in PSG’s impressive 2-0 win at Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League.

After his clinical strike settled a tense match, Mbappe could even afford himself a moment of light relief.

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Television cameras captured him laughing in the fifth minute of injury time after the referee showed him a yellow card for not standing back enough for a Saint-Etienne free kick.

Saint-Etienne boasts the second-best home record in the league — behind PSG — but offered little in attack as it dropped to fifth place behind an improving Marseille side boosted by striker Mario Balotelli’s arrival.

Instead, it was down to Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier to keep PSG at bay with saves from Mbappe and Angel Di Maria before Mbappe scored the only goal.

PSG chasing another kid named Kylian Mbappe

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What’s in a name? Probably a lot for the 11-year-old named Kylian Mbappe whom Paris Saint-Germain is reportedly interested in signing.

While his older namesake is hailed as the best young player in the world playing for PSG’s senior team and the world champion French national team, younger Kylian Mbappe currently plays for Roissy-en-Brie, the same youth club Paul Pogba played for as a young child before moving to Le Havre’s youth system and then Manchester United.

According to the child’s father, PSG has made an approach to add him to their youth ranks, but the family is taking its time to make a decision about Mbappe’s future.

“He will do what he wants and we will not push him at all costs to become a professional footballer,” said the boy’s father Eric, who is Cameroonian, just like the father of older Kylian Mbappe. “If it is the case that he goes to PSG, who have approached us, we would of course become closer to the other Kylian.”

“I have often been asked if I did it on purpose to call my son what his name is,” Eric added, speaking to French publication Le Parisien. “People quickly forget that there is only an 8-year age difference between the two and so obviously he was not a footballer when my son was born.”

Child Kylian said, “Since the other one became big, I have got used to it. I don’t even pay attention to it even if it generally makes me feel good. I am a PSG fan, I would like to have the same career as him.”

Wouldn’t we all, Kylian, wouldn’t we all.

Report: Bayern Munich priced out of Rabiot chase

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Another top club seems to be dropping out of the race for Adrian Rabiot.

According to German publication Kicker, Bayern Munich has stopped its pursuit of the French midfielder due to his excessive wage demands.

Rabiot is available via a free transfer this summer after his Paris Saint-Germain contract is set to expire. The 23-year-old midfielder has been an explosive subject over the past few months after he was dropped from PSG first-team training amid strenuous contract negotiations, only reinstated after the club was forced by court order, but he still has not appeared in the matchday squad since early December.

Rabiot and his agent – his mother Veronique – have made scathing remarks about his current French club, but others have been wary to pursue him due to perceived character issues. Rabiot refused a call-up to the French national team squad for the World Cup because he didn’t want to be an alternate, and added fuel to the character fire when he reportedly turned down a transfer to Tottenham because he considered the London club to be beneath his level.

His wage demands must be overly excessive for a club of Bayern’s might to turn down a free transfer for financial reasons, although often times top free transfers come with costly agent fees – Juventus reportedly paid $16 million in agent fees and commissions to complete the free transfer of Emre Can last summer – and that could be another reason for Bayern’s distaste of pursuing the Frenchman.

Rabiot has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona this summer, with the Spanish giants looking to get younger in the midfield. Barcelona currently sees significant minutes from 30-year-old Sergio Busquets, 30-year-old Ivan Rakitic, 31-year-old Arturo Vidal, while 22-year-old Arthur has struggled to earn a consistent role in the middle of the field with inconsistent performances and 26-year-old Rafinha is recovering from an ACL tear.

Di Maria: My only problem at Manchester United was Van Gaal

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First of all today is Angel Di Maria’s 31st birthday. Happy birthday, fella.

The Argentine is probably feeling pretty good after his latest trip around the Sun, especially given its most recent moment was Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 defeat of former club Manchester United in the first leg of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16.

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Di Maria was in the headlines after the game because an Old Trafford attendee tossed a bottle at him, part of what’s prompted a UEFA investigation into both sets of fans.

Di Maria, however, insists he has no problems with United or its fans, saying his poor memories of Old Trafford rest only with manager Louis Van Gaal.

“I’ve said it in the past and I reiterate it, I never spoke badly of the people here and of this club,” Di Maria said. “These are things that happen and people took it badly. I only had problems with the coach here.”

The numbers say that Di Maria wasn’t all that bad at Old Trafford; He just didn’t quite live up to his standards (He also had fewer matches than any time in his career because United was neither in the Champions nor Europa League.

Here are Di Maria’s matches, goals, and assists since he turned 21 and broke out with Benfica. While the numbers don’t tell the whole story of any seasons, they are a guiding light and also show why he’s considered a star everywhere outside of England.

There’s little doubt that Manchester United and the Premier League are a significant challenge compared to the Portuguese and French leagues, so perhaps his numbers should speak for themselves anyway.

To boot:

Benfica
2009-10 — 45 matches, 10 goals, 19 assists
Real Madrid
2010-11 — 53 matches, 9 goals, 26 assists
2011-12 — 32 matches, 7 goals, 17 assists
2012-13 — 52 matches, 9 goals, 17 assists
2013-14 — 52 matches, 11 goals, 25 assists
Manchester United
2014-15 — 32 matches, 4 goals, 12 assists
Paris Saint-Germain
2015-16 — 47 matches, 15 goals, 25 assists
2016-17 — 43 matches, 14 goals, 15 assists
2017-18 — 45 matches, 21 goals, 12 assists
2018-19 — 32 matches, 10 goals, 11 assists

PSG, Man Utd investigated for fan actions in UEFA Champions League

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More than 800 seats need to be replaced after away supporters did damage at Old Trafford during Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 defeat of Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg on Tuesday.

PSG will be investigated by UEFA, and so will United after a bottle was hurled at former winger Angel Di Maria.

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The disciplinary case is set to go before UEFA on Feb. 28, a week before United visits Paris for the second leg on March 6.

According to the Manchester Evening News:

United have been charged with blocked stairways and the throwing of objects while PSG have been charged with the setting off of fireworks, throwing of objects, acts of damage and crowd disturbance.