Neither his current club nor suitors Real Madrid knew what was going to happen until the day before the decision was made public. He had reached agreements with both of them some time ago, which his mother and one of his representatives, Fayza Lamari, confirmed on Friday.
Nothing had been signed, but the terms had been agreed upon. Both clubs were willing to pay a signing-on fee of 150 million euros (£127 million), and both agreed he would retain the majority of his image rights and a salary of 40 million euros (£34 million).
Then, after the season’s final game against Real Betis on Friday, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez informed his club’s players in the Bernabeu changing rooms that Mbappe would not be joining.
Real Madrid had long hoped to sign France’s World Cup winner this summer, and they were confident it would be the culmination of a romance that began when Mbappe burst onto the scene in the Monaco team that reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2017.
Even though Mbappe chose PSG at the time, his representatives insisted to Real Madrid that he would end up there one day.
According to what my Spanish colleagues and I were hearing from the Real Madrid side of things, they were completely confident – they were convinced it was all wrapped up, and they believed they had his word on it.
For the third time, Kylian Mbappe has been named Ligue 1’s player of the year.
According to French media, PSG may have gone even further with the signing-on fee, as well as offering other benefits that Real Madrid could not match (more control over sporting decisions, future deals with Qatar, etc).
PSG’s proposal is less dramatic than it sounds because it happens with big stars all the time. They are frequently questioned about managers and large transfers, particularly at PSG, where the manager’s influence is less than at other clubs.
While his mother and father are his closest advisers and handle his affairs, with the assistance of their lawyer, Delphine Verheyden, the final decision was entirely up to him, and there has been a significant shift in attitude.
The connection between this year’s Qatar World Cup and the Qatari owners of PSG is obvious. The Qatari pressure has reached the French political authorities, and even French President Emmanuel Macron has gotten involved in pressuring Mbappe to stay.
I was getting very clear indications from the PSG entourage not long ago that nothing could change his mind about leaving. Even if one of his idols, Zinedine Zidane, came in as manager, it was said that would not be enough to persuade him to stay in Paris.
All of that changed in the last few weeks, and the PSG players began to believe he was staying.
From a football standpoint, one factor Mbappe may have considered is whether he can win the Ballon d’Or at PSG. To do so, he would need to have a near-perfect Champions League season with PSG, scoring 10 goals or more and winning the tournament, competing against Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, and Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic. It is more difficult to win an individual trophy at PSG.
But, of course, he could still end up at the Bernabeu one day. His age isn’t an issue because, at 23, he knows he can stay at PSG for a couple of years and help them win the Champions League, then move to Madrid and have five or six years at his peak.
For now, it is an embarrassing end to Madrid’s pursuit of a player who would have been the first cast-iron Galactico since Ronaldo’s departure in 2018, or perhaps the first since Eden Hazard joined in 2019. They’ll need to explain it to their fans in some way.
Perez has been exposed by this, given the Madrid side’s months of confident briefing that a deal would happen, and waiting for Mbappe’s arrival has slowed their squad planning in other areas.
We’ll probably hear again that this proves Madrid and other La Liga teams can’t compete with’state clubs’ (La Liga president Javier Tebas mentioned that last week). Real Madrid will try to make it clear that they did everything possible to get him.
You’d think that now that Mbappe’s decision has been made, PSG fans would be overjoyed, but keep in mind that they have whistled their Paris-born striker this season.
Of course, the fans will rejoice, but there is so much discord outside the club that PSG will have to do much more to please everyone. Big decisions must still be made, such as appointing a new manager and director of football, though Mbappe has a good relationship with current manager Mauricio Pochettino.
For the time being, they have done enough to satisfy Mbappe, and they will hope that this will be the catalyst for them to finally win the Champions League, which they so desperately want.