Kylian Mbappe, €700 Million And Why The Game Will Never Truly Be Gone

What do the Premier League, European Super League, Trevor Francis and Kylian Mbappe have in common?
11:40, 25 Jul 2023

The pearl-clutching on social media has already started. As soon as news emerged that Paris Saint-Germain had accepted a world record £259 million bid for Kylian Mbappe from Al-Hilal. The moralising increased further when reports of a £605 million a year salary offer were published. “The game has well and truly gone!”, we all cried. But has it? No, not really.

Football and moral panic are longtime bedfellows. It is rare to encounter a time when fans and pundits aren’t grappling with some sort of battle for the heart of football. In the age of social media, when each of us is pushed into having an opinion about everything, these internal conflicts are becoming more ever-present.


Why should Mbappe get that insane wage? What does it say about our sport when its prize assets are being sold for such fees? This isn’t even the first one of these morality plays to feature this player and this football club. Two summers ago, PSG rejected a £137 million bid from Real Madrid for Mbappe’s services. The outrage that followed was borne out of the fact the France international had just a year to run on his contract. The fact clubs were becoming so rich they could reject the second biggest transfer fee of all time for a player who could leave for free in a year was seen as egregious. 

PSG have accepted a far larger fee for the same player this summer, having benefited from another two years of Mbappe in the team. Ultimately, despite people’s anger about the desolation of the sport, the Ligue 1 champions have been proven right. Whether Mbappe agrees terms with the Saudi Pro League club, which seems unlikely at this stage, is another matter.

Even if the Frenchman does pitch up at Al-Hilal, it won’t be the end of football. No matter the impact of every controversial incident, the game is never truly gone. Everyone will move on with Mbappe’s once-divisive salary only living on in memes describing how much money he gets per second.


Trevor Francis tragically passed away at the age of 69 on the same day PSG accepted Al-Hilal’s bid. The headlines all described the former Nottingham Forest striker as football’s first million-pound player. A fact that seems quaint with the fullness of time, but one that was subject to its own round of moralising when Francis left Birmingham City for the Tricky Trees in 1979. How could any club, in good conscience, pay seven figures for a footballer? The game had gone! Except it hadn’t and in time, Francis became known as a trailblazer.

Another revolutionary concept that had the football world up in arms was the formation of the Premier League in 1992. Naysayers said it would shatter football in this country. There is a nuanced argument for both sides. There is a bigger gap than ever between the haves and the have-nots in English football. But the Premier League is the most-watched domestic division in the world. An absolute revenue-juggernaut that boasts many of the world’s best players and biggest teams. What was once a scary new concept that broke with tradition is now cited globally as a sporting success story.

People hate change. In 2021, the same people who decried the moral-bereft Premier League were arguing it was the only way they wished to consume football when the European Super League reared its ugly head. The idea of an invitation-based, trans-continental league without relegation was roundly spat on by anyone with a love for the competitive nature of the sport. The enemy of my enemy of my friend and even the Premier League’s biggest detractors preferred it to this odious alternative. The ESL drew plenty of those familiar “the game has gone” shouts before retreating into the inequitable pit from whence it came.

The truth is at this point, the sport of football is unkillable. Popular, well-supported clubs are owned by nation states where homosexuality is illegal and women have a fraction of the rights men enjoy. Players are charged with sex offences with colleagues and fans publicly rallying for their return before the truth has even emerged. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia are trying to buy an entire league off-the-rack, supporters at one of the country’s biggest clubs are begging for “oil money” and player’s obituaries are inundated with comments asking the team posting them to sign players.

If all this isn’t enough to put you off football, nothing will. Certainly not Mbappe getting an eye-watering new contract. The game will never be gone. Because at the centre of all this noise, there is nothing wrong with the actual game in the first place. 22 people chasing a ball around sounds simple on paper but it is that innate simplicity that causes football to endure. That round, leather ball carries with it our hopes and dreams. Our passions and insecurities. Our joys and our neuroses. Football is dead. Long live football.

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