The Frenchman doesn’t just have two elite clubs dancing to his own tune – he also has an incredible level of control over the entire transfer market
Unlike nearly everyone else connected with Paris Saint-Germain, Kylian Mbappe was in good spirits during Saturday’s Ligue 1 clash with Lorient.
While those seated around him at Parc des Princes were bitterly frustrated watching the champions try – and fail – to break down the team that finished 10th last season, Mbappe was spotted several times laughing and joking with new PSG signing Ousmane Dembele. And why not? The game did nothing other than prove just how important he is to PSG.
The day before, Luis Enrique had stated that he was still hoping to see an amicable resolution to Mbappe’s contract stand-off with Nasser Al-Khelaifi & Co., but the new coach pointedly added: “The philosophy of this club is very clear: that the club is above everything, and I share it 100 percent.”
Undoubtedly admirable and heartfelt sentiments on the part of Luis Enrique – but simply not applicable in this case.
The events of the last few days have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Kylian Mbappe is bigger than Paris Saint-Germain. Right now, in fact, he’s probably the most powerful player in the world.
Acutely aware of his own worth
The morning after being given what must have felt like a terrifying glimpse of a future without Mbappe, PSG announced that the France captain had been welcomed back into the fold with open arms.
To casual observers, that would have looked like a remarkable turn of events. PSG, remember, had seemingly stood up to Mbappe at long last. When a letter confirming his intention to leave the club in 2024 was mysteriously – and conveniently – leaked to the press, Al-Khelaifi insisted that Mbappe would have to find himself a new club before the close of the transfer window. PSG understandably had no intention of losing the world’s most valuable player on a free transfer next summer.
Things turned so toxic that PSG rather pettily took down Mbappe posters in and around their stadium, stopped selling his shirt in the club shop, while also resorting to the mother of all guilt trips by claiming that if Mbappe left for nothing, it would result in a “wave of redundancies”.
They even accepted an offer from Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal for Mbappe, in an attempt to force his hand. Mbappe, though, refused to even discuss the transfer. Why? Because he can.
He’s the man in demand, the player holding all the aces here – and he knows it. This is a young, generational talent who is acutely aware of his own worth, particularly to PSG.
mbappe Al Khelaifi(C)Getty Images
‘Cornerstrone of the club’s project’
Al-Khelaifi made Mbappe “the cornerstone of the club’s project” last year for a reason. They are utterly dependent upon him, and not from a sporting perspective. His goals can be replaced.
As former sporting director Leonardo pointed out, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Chelsea have all won the Champions League since Mbappe joined PSG – so it is possible to win the trophy without him.
But PSG’s superstar-obsessed owners clearly do not believe that is possible for a club with no competition in France to maintain relevance on the global stage without a player of Mbappe’s stature – one that is immensely popular with young fans from every background – and certainly not at this moment in time.
With Lionel Messi and Neymar having left this summer, Mbappe is their one remaining icon – and the one most important to their brand. They could build a better, more cohesive and functioning team with the money made from selling Mbappe, one capable of finally realising their dream of conquering Europe, but without the World Cup winner, they would just not be as attractive a proposition in terms of marketing and commercial opportunities, or even just in terms of attracting social media followers.
Mbappe and his team know all that, which is why they could afford to simply sit tight and call PSG’s bluff.
Making Madrid wait too
Because it’s not as if Real Madrid are going anywhere. Mbappe led Florentino Perez down the garden path last summer, and yet the Spaniard still clearly wants to sign him. He is even prepared to wait until next year to do so.
Again, though, Mbappe will decide if or when he moves to Madrid. He may yet sign an extension at PSG, but if he does, it will be once again done on his terms. Indeed, do not be surprised if he manages to ‘persuade’ PSG to put a 2024 buy-out clause into the agreement – and for a fee that he knows Madrid will be willing to meet.
In that sense, Mbappe is displaying an element of control over not only his career – but also the transfer market – that we have never seen before.
He has been a little fortunate in that regard. Cristiano Ronaldo had to move to Saudi Arabia because nobody wanted him in Europe anymore. Lionel Messi was forced out of Camp Nou on account of Barcelona’s financial problems.
Mbappe, though, is in a position to do as he pleases, and while he decides what’s best for him, several other players are stuck in the departures lounge. If Mbappe stays at PSG, Madrid will simply have to sign a goalscorer this summer. And PSG, of course, would need to sign a replacement if he were to leave.
Either way, Mbappe is the potential catalyst for a chain reaction that would see a succession of forwards switch clubs.
Spineless PSG panic under the pressure
Not that he’ll care about that, of course. For now, his sole focus will be on seeing what else PSG are willing to offer him to sign a contract extension.
They bent over backwards for him last summer, while this time around they have replaced Neymar, with whom Mbappe fell out, with his France team-mate and good friend Dembele.
More Mbappe-approved moves yet be made at the Parc des Princes.
Of course, the club have tried to make out that a relationship that appeared broken has now been mended thanks to “very constructive, positive talks” between the two parties led to the player being “reinstat ed into first-team training” on Sunday morning. In truth, though, a desperate and spineless PSG panicked under the pressure and decided to give Mbappe everything he wanted once again.
In the era of player power, not one has more than Kylian Mbappe.
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