Kylian Mbappe Forces PSG Hand as Dream Real Move Edges Closer

So, what exactly is Kylian Mbappe playing at? For half a decade now, Mbappe has been the world’s most-feared striker, a fact he reinforced with a brilliant hat-trick – albeit in a losing cause – in the World Cup final against Argentina. During that time, he has won Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) five times, and been leading scorer in the competition in each of the last five seasons. His numbers since he moved to the French capital from Monaco are astonishing – 212 goals and 98 assists in 260 games. Last summer, when it was widely expected that he would move to Real Madrid, Mbappe stunned the football world by agreeing a new contract with PSG rumoured to be worth $105m a year.

That deal was for two years, with the option to extend by 12 months. But now, Mbappe’s entourage, and the player himself, have made it known that they have no interest in an extension. The news leaked on June 13 suggested that Team Mbappe had informed PSG as early as July 2022 that there would be no extension. But that wasn’t all. Soon after, Mbappe tweeted in response to a story saying that he would make a summer move to Real. “LIES,” he wrote, before adding: “I have already said that I will continue next season at PSG where I am very happy.”

The ball is now very much in PSG’s half. There is dismay from their side that the player’s representatives released such a statement, and also acceptance that even a new contract will not keep Mbappe in Paris. They now face a stark choice. Put him on the market this summer, to try and recoup some of the €180m they paid for him five years ago. Or let him play out a final season in PSG colours before walking away on a free transfer in June 2024.

PSG’s plan to dominate European football is in ruins. While Manchester City, another club funded by Middle Eastern money, built systematically with the aim of winning the ultimate prize – the European Champions League – PSG’s use of Qatari money has been completely random. Where City decided a decade ago that they would try and replicate the model that had given Barcelona so much success between 2008 and 2012, there has been no underlying philosophy behind PSG’s attempts to keep pace with the big boys.

Those in charge of the club should hang their heads in shame at the fact that a club like Liverpool, spending a fraction of what PSG have over the past decade, have reached three Champions League finals since 2018, while PSG have played in one – the same as Tottenham Hotspur. This summer also marks the end of their misguided pursuit of celebrity transfers. Lionel Messi has already left for Miami, having left no deep imprint in Paris, and Neymar is set to follow him out of the exit door. If and when Mbappe also leaves, it will be the final slap in the face for those who thought writing out fat cheques would be enough to win the biggest prizes.

The more worrying question for PSG is why Mbappe wants to leave. Born in Paris, playing for the local team should have been the highlight, as it was for a Steven Gerrard at Liverpool or Francesco Totti in Rome. But PSG, founded in 1970, don’t have anything like the same roots as some of those clubs. It’s quite telling that none of the French greats played for them. Michel Platini spent his years in France with Nancy and Saint-Etienne, before moving to Juventus. For Zinedine Zidane, Marseille was the club of his heart, though he played for Cannes and Bordeaux. Thierry Henry, another Paris boy, spent half a decade with Monaco before moving to Arsenal.

Mbappe grew up with Real Madrid posters on his bedroom wall, and dreams of playing in the white shirt then worn by Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. He has never seen PSG as another more than a stepping stone on that road. Now 24, and at his peak, he clearly feels the time is right for the move.

Money is not a consideration here. If Mbappe wanted even more, PSG could probably make it happen, with Messi gone from the wage bill and Neymar soon to follow. He could go to Saudi Arabia, and easily ask for twice what the clubs there are paying Ronaldo and Benzema, two players whose current levels are nowhere near his. But what he wants is the glory that has so far eluded him in Paris, those big European nights that seem to happen every so often when wearing Real’s white shirt.

With Benzema gone, Real are anyway in the market for a forward. Harry Kane was thought to be the first choice, but if Mbappe becomes available, then it’s a no-brainer. Manchester United, likely to have new owners soon, are thought to be interested, while Mbappe himself has previously expressed his admiration for Liverpool and the work that Jurgen Klopp has done there.

But the minute Real signal their interest – and why would they not be keen on the world’s best player? – no other club stands a chance. PSG know this. And the rest of the summer, right up until the transfer window closes in early September, is going to be about how many pennies they can get out of Madrid. Mbappe has left them little wiggle room, and it’ll be fascinating to see who blinks first.

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