A World Cup winner at just 19, the second teenager – after Pelé – to score in a World Cup final and top scorer in Ligue 1 for four consecutive seasons, Mbappé is a one-of-a-kind footballer.
The 23-year-old star striker had long been linked with Real Madrid. He was invited to the Spanish club’s academy aged 11, had posters of Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo on the walls of his childhood bedroom and said he wanted to join the 14-time winners of the European Cup last year.
The Spanish giants submitted a $188m bid for Mbappé in August. The deal was close to being done and the striker even admitted back then that he wanted to leave PSG.
“I was honest. I gave a feeling, I gave what’s in my heart,” Mbappé told CNN’s Becky Anderson in December.
So when the Frenchman extended his contract with PSG instead of signing with Los Merengues, it was a shock, to say the least.
“The project is to always win”
Mbappé explained his decision to stay in Paris by repeatedly referring to the “project” under construction at PSG.
Despite tapping into seemingly unlimited reserves of money, PSG have so far failed to win a Champions League title and are unfortunate enough to implode in the knockout stages.
Now it looks like the club are changing their approach.
“If I change all things, I want to change at the club,” Mbappé said before taking a break and recalibrating. “If the club grows with me, if I can write the history of the club collectively with the Champions League or individually too, I will be happy with this contract.
“When they showed me this project, I was like, okay, this is interesting. And I want to try. I want to try again,” he said.
Following Mbappé’s decision to stay, more changes appear to be brewing at the Parc des Princes.
“Of course there will be a lot of changes that are going to happen,” club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi told CNN’s Amanda Davies.
“We want to create a new era of Paris Saint-Germain, a new project, fresh air. I think it’s really important that everyone gets motivated.”
During a press conference announcing his contract extension, Mbappé however denied that his new contract would give him more leverage on or off the pitch.
“When it comes to the project here, you don’t need to invest any special responsibility,” he told reporters.
“Macron gave me good advice”
Mbappé was born and raised in Bondy, a suburb of Paris 11 kilometers from the city center and, apart from a two-year stint playing for Monaco, has lived in the French capital all his life.
“He’s Parisian. He’s French. He loves his country. He loves his club,” Al-Khelaifi told CNN. “So he plays for the club for five years [and] there is a relationship. There is love between him, the club, the fans, his country.”
Murals dedicated to him are dotted around his former neighborhood where he became a hero to young footballers.
On the side of a building, a painting represents a young Mbappé asleep, dreaming of representing France. “Love your dream and it will love you back,” read one small caption.
As a figurehead for the France team, hailing from a suburb north of Paris, Mbappé’s value goes beyond his performances on the pitch and in the political arena.
Speaking on the TV show Chez Jordan, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was full of praise for the young striker.
“Above all, I think that beyond football and results, he is so important, so useful to give hope to our young people… That’s why I want him to stay,” she said.
Even French President Emmanuel Macron stepped in to implore the young star to stay at PSG and in France.
“He gave me good advice,” Mbappé said, “but with all due respect to him, it was my decision. I took that advice but after I made my decision.”
“I’m staying and I want to give my best for the history of the club and my country.”
New money versus old money
Qatar Sports Investments (QSi) – the owner of PSG – is a subsidiary of Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the Qatari state-run sovereign wealth fund.
Since the Qatari group – led by the Emir of Qatar himself – took control of PSG in 2011, the club have spent around $1.5 billion on transfers, won Ligue 1 10 times, even if the Champions League title proved elusive.
Just six months before Qatar hosts the World Cup, keeping the likely star of this tournament at the Emir-owned club has been seen as a huge coup.
Real Madrid, according to The New York Times, offered Mbappé a signing bonus of almost $140 million, an annual net salary of more than $26 million and full control over his image rights.
Backed by vast reserves of public money, PSG hit back with a similar signing fee but a much higher annual salary of $65m, according to Sky Sports.
It marked a rare occasion when Real Madrid were unable to match a rival’s financial offer, and a win for the ‘new money’ clubs funded from the deep pockets of nation states on the more established “legacy” clubs with sprawling histories behind them. .
“What PSG are doing by renewing with Mbappé for a huge sum of money (who knows where and how it will be paid for) after announcing losses of 700 million euros in recent seasons and having a salary charge of 600 million euros is an INSULT to football. Al-Khelafi is as dangerous as the Super League,” La Liga president Javier Tebas tweeted.
Tebas’ tweet echoed the views of his organization which issued an inflammatory statement once it became clear Mbappé would stay in France.
“La Liga will file a complaint against PSG before UEFA, the French administrative court and the tax authorities and authorities of the European Union to continue to defend the economic ecosystem of European football and its sustainability,” the statement said.
“We know we’re doing everything legally, everything the right way,” Al-Khelaifi told CNN. “And we are very happy. Nobody will destroy our celebration of the re-signing of Kylian Mbappé.”
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