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Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe has hit out at France for its treatment of Lionel Messi during his two seasons in Ligue 1.

Messi joined the French champions in 2021 on a free transfer from Barcelona and despite winning the league on two occasions, the forward struggled to adapt to life at PSG.

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Messi, 35, was booed and jeered by PSG fans following their exits from the Champions League over the last few seasons.

Messi opted not to extend his PSG contract at the end of the season and is set to join Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami. Mbappe defended his former club teammate and said he deserved more respect in France.

“We’re talking about potentially the best player in the history of football,” Mbappe told Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport. “It’s never good news when someone like Messi leaves.

“Personally I haven’t really understood why so many people were relieved that he was leaving. We’re talking about Messi, he should be respected — but instead, he didn’t get the respect he deserved in France. It’s a shame, but that’s how it went. He’ll have to be replaced as best as possible.”

Mbappe also added that he never asked PSG to allow him to move to Real Madrid in this summer, confirming that he is happy to play in the French capital next season but will not extend his deal with the club.

Mbappe caused a stir when he sent a letter to the club stating that he had no intention to extend his PSG contract, which expires in 2024 if he does not activate the clause that will extend his deal by a further 12 months.

PSG risk losing Mbappe for free in June 2024. He will also be free to sign a pre-contract agreement with a new club from January should he decide to see out the remaining year of his deal at PSG.

– Lowe: How Barcelona missed chance to sign Messi twice

“I didn’t ask either to be sold or to go to Real Madrid,” Mbappe said. “I just confirmed that I don’t want to activate the extra year foreseen in the contract. We have never talked about a renewal with PSG, but I’m happy to stay here next season.”

ESPN reported on Wednesday that Madrid are ready to bid for Mbappe this summer and the player is keen to move to the LaLiga giants. Sources added that PSG would be willing to listen to offers of around €150 million ($161.5m) for the France captain.

Madrid have courted Mbappe in the past but failed to land the 24-year-old, who signed a contract extension with PSG in May last year.

However, the Spanish club are rebuilding their team after losing Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, and could turn their eye to Mbappe who has finished top scorer in Ligue 1 for the last five seasons.

Information from Reuters was included in this report.

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Kylian Mbappe hits out at France over Lionel Messi treatment