Paris Saint-Germain captain Thiago Silva has spoken out in defence of teammates Kylian Mbappe and Neymar after the recent criticism aimed at both.
The 33-year-old skippered his side to a 5-0 home win over Anderlecht in the Champions League on Tuesday and Mbappe started that encounter despite heavy speculation beforehand that he would be used as a substitute instead.
Speaking after the final whistle at the Parc des Princes, the Brazil international said that both Mbappe and Neymar are being put under too much pressure by the media.
“I think there is unnecessary pressure on Kylian,” he told Esporte Interativo. “Neymar too, who is still only 25. He also suffers from this. We should not forget that Kylian is just 18 years old.
“Football can be like this. You cannot always reach your absolute best, even if you give your absolute maximum. Against Anderlecht, he [Mbappe] played very well.”
PSG coach Unai Emery had been expected to start Angel Di Maria instead of Mbappe after he assisted two of the three goals scored in the 3-0 home win over Nice in Ligue 1 last Friday.
However, Emery stuck by Mbappe and Neymar replaced Di Maria in the starting XI against Anderlecht. Di Maria did get on as a substitute, replacing Mbappe after just over an hour, and assisted Layvin Kurzawa’s third goal of the evening.
“It is good when there are doubts over the starting XI,” Emery said. “Doubt is positive because that means that I am having to make a choice between players who are all performing well.
“I want to boost every player’s confidence and better, give them minutes on the pitch. Against Anderlecht, my decision focused on Kylian playing alongside Edinson [Cavani] and Neymar. There are other players who are doing well and have performed well lately, such as Angel.
“We have a lot of matches coming up and it is certain that we are going to need every player. I trust everybody in the squad but I can only play 11 players and use three more as substitutes. The others stay on the bench or do not play. I am relieved to have such competition for places within the team.”
Di Maria may find himself in the starting XI away at Angers in Ligue 1 on Saturday, with Neymar nursing a calf knock sustained in the win over Anderlecht and France international Mbappe possibly in need of some rest before the approaching international break.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.