Today, as we begin 2024, Kylian Mbappe enters the final six months of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), which means he will be able to negotiate with clubs who are interested in signing him on a free transfer at the end of that deal.
Aged 25, Mbappe is already a World Cup winner, runner-up and Golden Boot winner, and widely recognised as one of the finest football players on the planet. His future has also been the subject of frenzied and protracted speculation with the Frenchman frequently flirting with Real Madrid and falling out with PSG.
At some point in the near future, Mbappe will have to decide whether to extend his contract in Paris (something he declined to do last summer), sign for Madrid (something he came mightily close to doing in the summer of 2022) or move somewhere else (something he decided against when he turned down advances from Saudi Arabia in August last year).
The Athletic reported on Friday that Madrid are preparing to make another move for Mbappe, but much has changed since they first began their pursuit.
Our Mario Cortegana and Adam Crafton explain the background and what Madrid, PSG and Mbappe are thinking about a saga that may, finally, be heading for a conclusion.
What is Mbappe’s situation at PSG — didn’t they kiss and make up in the summer?
Yes, but they fall out and make up every summer, before falling out again. To recap, Mbappe had a year to run on his contract in the summer of 2023 and he informed PSG, in writing, that he would not be triggering an option to extend it.
As such, PSG, for a few weeks anyway, said they would be selling Mbappe immediately, to avoid losing him on a free, unless he was prepared to sign another extension. And so he was briefly dumped into the “loft” — the term used to describe PSG’s unwanted players who were left behind while the rest went on the club’s pre-season tour in Japan and South Korea.
PSG were at one point threatening to disregard Mbappe for the entire season leading up to the 2024 European Championship finals, when he would need to be fit and firing for the France side he now captains. The two parties buckled in mid-August, however, when Mbappe returned to first-team training.
He has since scored 18 league goals for the French champions. He has not, however, signed an extension.
Mbappe also turned down a move to Saudi Arabia when Al Hilal submitted a world record $332million (£260m) offer to take him to the Saudi Pro League.
Talks were held involving Mbappe, his parents, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and their sporting advisor Jorge Campos.
One compromise reported at the time involved an agreement being reached by which Mbappe would cede certain loyalty bonuses, smoothing his return to the PSG first team without signing an extension.
Do Real Madrid still want him?
Madrid’s interest in Mbappe has never gone away. Contact has not been completely lost between the parties and the Spanish club have already set a deadline of mid-January for Mbappe to make up his mind about his future.
The events of last summer, however — when Madrid thought they had got their man, only for Mbappe to agree a new deal with PSG — have changed the nature of their interest. There are important voices at the 14-time European champions who are now not convinced, in sporting and above all financial terms, that the signing of Mbappe is now what their project needs.
The rising costs of the extensive renovation works at their Santiago Bernabeu stadium have limited the club’s spending power and Madrid want to ensure they record a profit every year — something they managed even during the pandemic. Some are also conscious of how Mbappe’s arrival would upset the harmony in the dressing room — particularly when it comes to the wage bill.
While Jude Bellingham has settled in quickly and without fuss in Madrid after his move last summer, would Mbappe do the same? His many controversies at PSG and with the France national team, where he plays with several of the Madrid squad, have raised doubts among the board about whether the excessive power he has been given in Paris could end up being a problem for them.
The scenario, therefore, is different now compared to 2022 or 2023 and, accordingly, Madrid’s offer would be different too. The timescales are not the same, either — Madrid would want a commitment from Mbappe to avoid being caught short again in May or June, as happened to them last year.
Then it would be time for the key phase: negotiations between Jose Angel Sanchez, Madrid’s general manager, and Fayza Lamari and Delphine Verheyden, Mbappe’s mother and lawyer respectively.
‘She’s like fire’: How Mbappe’s mum became one of football’s toughest dealmakers
It should be noted that Lamari was annoyed by Florentino Perez, blaming Madrid’s club president for leaking to the Spanish press that Mbappe’s signing for them was done to put pressure on her son. Yet Mbappe’s mum was delighted with the manner of Sanchez, who would be the main interlocutor in future negotiations.
What do we know about what PSG want?
PSG would ideally like Mbappe to stay with them for what should be the best years of his career.
They have committed hundreds of millions of euros to him in transfer fees and wages since the original move from Monaco in 2017, and a player who has won a World Cup and scored a hat-trick in another World Cup final remains a prized asset. The club are also in advanced discussions to renew the contract of Ethan Mbappe, 17, Kylian’s younger brother.
PSG have drawn up budgets and plans for the eventuality that both Mbappe stays and leaves. The club say they will not be forced into overpaying this time around, yet we know they have a track record for doing precisely that where this player is concerned.
They would save upwards of €40million annually in wages alone if Mbappe did go, while Al-Khelaifi would no doubt frame it as a political masterstroke if he can somehow persuade the Paris-born striker to sign yet another renewal, having previously spurned Madrid at least twice before.
And what does Mbappe want?
Only he knows where he wants to play his football in the longer term.
People in his circle continue to maintain he wants to play for Madrid, and the player has direct contact with Perez, probably the most important supporter of his signing — despite everything that has happened in recent years.
But at the Bernabeu, some believe the first step must be taken by the player himself: he commits to join them, decides to stay in Paris or talks to other clubs — but only he can truly decide his future.
(Top photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)