Paris Saint-Germain left for its preseason tour of Japan on Saturday without talismanic striker Kylian Mbappé, whose future at the club looks uncertain amid a contract dispute. (More Football News)
Mbappé has already told the club he won't trigger a 12-month extension on his contract, but said he would start this coming season with the French champion.
PSG left the France forward out of its 29-man squad for the Japan tour, which features matches against Saudi team Al Nassr, Japanese team Cerezo Osaka and Champions League runner-up Inter Milan.
Mbappé stepped out of a van to greet a handful of waiting PSG fans after a brief training session on Saturday at the club's training complex in the Paris suburb of Poissy.
He looked in good spirits, smiling as he posed for photos and signed autographs with security officials standing nearby, but made no comment about his ongoing situation.
The club does not want to let Mbappé leave for free at the end of next season and says the 2022 World Cup top scorer will either sign a new contract or be sold.
The 24-year-old Mbappé wrote to tell PSG of his plans last month.
News of the letter immediately sparked a transfer frenzy that saw Mbappé linked again with Real Madrid, which offered 180 million euros (USD190 million) for the striker in 2021.
Madrid missed out last year when Mbappé signed a new deal with PSG until 2024 with an option for 2025 that needs to be signed by July 31.
Having seen teammate Lionel Messi leave for Inter Miami after not taking up an option for an extra year, PSG does not want Mbappé leaving as a free agent to Madrid, or anywhere else.
Mbappé already counts 40 goals for France and is only the second player in history to score a hat trick in a World Cup final, doing so when France lost to Argentina. He ended last year's tournament with eight goals, one more than MVP Messi, his club teammate for the past two seasons.
Mbappé wants to see out next season with PSG and then play for France at the Paris Olympics — a request that would need to be approved by the French Football Federation and his club side.
But PSG, which for too long has been perceived as pampering star players such as Neymar, Mbappé and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is finally standing up to a big-name player.
When club president Nasser al-Khelaifi recently unveiled Luis Enrique as the new coach, he issued a reminder that there was no chance of Mbappé — PSG's all-time leading scorer with 212 goals — going for nothing.
Running down his contract to leave PSG in one year's time would mean losing out on a transfer fee which could even exceed the world record 222 million euros (then USD 262 million) it paid Barcelona for Neymar six years ago.
As a free agent, Mbappé could command a colossal signing-on fee if Madrid did not have to pay PSG for the transfer.
PSG would prefer Mbappé renews for one year which would protect its investment and oblige another club to buy him if he did insist on leaving in 2024, potentially after playing for France at the Paris Games.
The Olympic final is on August 9 next year, likely at Parc des Princes — PSG's home stadium.