For the second summer transfer window in a row, it looked very likely Kylian Mbappe would leave Paris Saint-Germain. For the second summer transfer window in a row, the player has stayed at Parc Des Princes. But it remains hard to shake the feeling Mbappe will not be at the French giants forever. Each year, he edges a little closer to the exit. Which makes his participation in the Champions League, which starts tonight as PSG welcome Borussia Dortmund, fascinating. Could this be Kylian Mbappe’s last dance with Les Rouge-et-Bleu in the continental showpiece?
Mbappe’s future is in a precarious position. He currently stands to become a free agent next summer at the conclusion of the two-year deal he signed last summer. That contract was initially trumpeted as a three-year arrangement, with Mbappe even holding a shirt bearing his name and ‘2025’ at the official announcement. But it became clear this summer that the further year was only an option and the length of the term was only guaranteed until 2024.
Mbappe publicly announced his intention not to take up the further year option this summer, sparking a furious response from his club. The 24-year-old was sent to train away from the first team squad, with a group of players waiting to be sold.
Al-Ahli of the Saudi Pro League offered a staggering fee of around £258 million to sign Mbappe with a contract that would have paid him nearly £1 billion over the course of a year. The idea was Mbappe would ply his trade in the upstart league for 12 months, raising its profile before moving on to Real Madrid. But Mbappe rejected the insanely-lucrative offer outright.
There was also talk of a loan to the Premier League, with Liverpool reported to be interested in bringing Mbappe in for the season. But just when it looked like his spell in Ligue 1 had reached the point of no return, there was compromise. The situation was helped when Neymar moved on, freeing up Mbappe’s preferred role on the left wing. The signing of his close friend, Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona, also mended bridges considerably. The cherry on top of this most troubled cake was the fact Mbappe has reportedly offered to forgo a loyalty bonus he would have received for seeing out the two-year contract. This way PSG get to keep Mbappe without the financial outlay next summer.
While a contract extension has not yet been signed, Mbappe is committed to the cause this season. He’s proved as much on the field, scoring seven goals in four games so far this season. Now the World Cup winner turns his attention to the Champions League. Finally, for the first time, he is his side’s greatest hope of capturing the honour.
Along with Neymar leaving, Lionel Messi also departed this summer. While the Argentine great plies his trade at Inter Miami in the MLS, Neymar has pitched up at Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia. With PSG paring back, Mbappe is the sole global superstar left at the club. Ironically, in the last year of his deal and before he makes a likely move to Madrid, he has got what he always wanted. For one season and presumably one season only, the entire Paris project will be built around him.
Few are tipping the 2020 Champions League finalists to go all the way this term. Betfred have PSG as sixth-favourites to win the competition at 14/1. Certainly it is a more understated strength Les Parsiens enjoy this time around. No longer does their teamsheet read like a Galacticos-esque collection footballing royalty. But there is talent there. Dembele, ex-Los Blancos star Marco Asensio, coveted right back Achraf Hakimi, a strong goalkeeper in Gianluigi Donnarumma. Teams have won this competition with far less. And most of those sides didn’t have arguably the best player on the planet, which PSG do in Mbappe.
How ironic would it be if the Champions League chase that caused PSG to assemble the Avengers of modern football is only won when they let Neymar and Messi go? Perhaps less really is more and an encumbered Mbappe, treated like the superstar he is, can be their talisman on the way to glory? It seemed impossible during a summer of discord. But PSG and Mbappe’s last dance could still have a fairytale ending, even if once the credits roll the conquering hero will leave for Madrid regardless.