Monaco head coach Leonardo Jardim has joked that he uses shinpads to protect star striker Kylian Mbappe from widespread transfer rumours.
Mbappe is reportedly the subject of a €180million bid from Real Madrid that would make the teenager the most expensive footballer in history.
After scoring 26 goals in all competitions for Monaco last season, firing Jardim’s men to the Ligue 1 title, Mbappe has become the world’s most in-demand player.
But Jardim believes the 18-year-old is staying grounded ahead of Monaco’s first game of the new season, the Trophee des Champions against Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday.
“In training, I use shin guards to protect him!” Jardim told reporters. “Kylian is a Monaco player and he has worked well in recent weeks to regain his level of last year.
“He has that ambition, and I think [on Saturday] he will work a lot, defensively and offensively.”
Manchester City, Barcelona, Arsenal and PSG have all been linked with a move for Mbappe, but Monaco have held talks over a new contract with the striker.
And Jardim insisted Monaco will be competitive again in the new season, despite star players Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy departing, while Valere Germain and Nabil Dirar have also left.
“We will start this match with the title of champions and we come out of a big season, but Monaco can never be considered the favourites,” Jardim said. “We have the ambition to win, of course, it is a final, either you lose or you win.
“Theoretically, we are more fragile with the departures of Mendy, Bernardo, Germain, Dirar, Bakayoko, but the same thing happened two years ago.
“The young players who are coming will help us. During the pre-season, we gave the opportunity to all the people who can help us this season.”