They had a bid of €160 million ($188m) for the 22-year-old French World Cup winner rejected on Wednesday, but had anticipated as much. The Spanish club may yet go higher, even though they could effectively sign Mbappe for free in 10 months’ time.
Mbappe wants to join Madrid, and has aspired to spending a portion of his career there since childhood. He has nourished a dream of following the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Brazilian Ronaldo and Cristiano Ronaldo as the marquee superstar for the 13-time European Cup winners. To preserve that dream, Mbappe has stubbornly refused to commit to a long-term future at PSG, the club he joined as a teenager in 2017.
His current contract expires next June, which would allow him to officially open talks with another club in January, and leave Paris without a fee six months later. He has been kept informed of Madrid’s keen interest, and at the Bernabeu senior executives believe terms of any contract with Mbappe would be relatively easy to agree. The obstacle is PSG’s determination that they can still persuade Mbappe, the top scorer in Ligue 1 last season, to be their figurehead, their icon for the next decade.
“He is from Paris, and he wants to win everything,” said Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the PSG president. “Mbappe has said, publicly, that he wants to be in a competitive team. He has one here. It is hard for any team to be as competitive as ours is. He has no excuses [not to extend his PSG deal] any more.”
Al-Khelaifi was very pointedly referring to the several newcomers to the PSG squad during the current transfer window: Lionel Messi, most notably, has arrived from Barcelona, Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid, along with Gianluigi Donnarumma, the young Italy goalkeeper, Achraf Hakimi, the Moroccan international attacking full-back, and Georginio Wijnaldum, the Netherlands midfielder. They join a club which already boasted the most expensive front pairing ever assembled, in Mbappe, who cost €180m from Monaco, and Neymar, who came from Barcelona for €222m.
But Mbappe, born in the outskirts of Paris, has not responded to PSG’s lucrative offers to extend, and the uncertainty over his future has clouded an otherwise celebratory summer at wealthy PSG. On the day the new signings were all being unveiled at a full Parc des Princes, Mbappe’s name was booed by some fans, frustrated at his apparent unwillingness to buy in, long term, to the PSG project.
Madrid's offer, tabled late on Tuesday, drew an angry response from Leonardo, PSG’s director of football, accusing the Spanish club of being disingenuous. "I think it's a strategy," he said. "They knew the answer from us would be 'No', so they can now say 'we tried everything, so let's wait for a year.'
Leonardo warned PSG would not yield. "If a player wants to leave, it will be on our terms. The position with Kylian for the last two years is that we want to keep him and extend his contract. That remains the case."
Although PSG, backed by Qatari sovereign wealth, do not need a major sale to balance the books, they would face an uncomfortable economic hit if they cling to Mbappe and the player winds down his contract. He could then leave next June without any compensation for the club who paid €180m for him.
Some influential voices within the club, resigned to Mbappe not signing an extension, argue that an offer of €180m or more from Madrid should be seriously considered by Al-Khelaifi and that €200m represents a price at which they should sell.
As for Madrid, the initial offer is a bold statement from a club who have suffered losses in revenue during the Covid-19 crisis. But they have raised significant sums in the last month, with Raphael Varane and Martin Odegaard, players signed young and developed at Madrid, sold to Manchester United and Arsenal for a combined €90m. Sergio Ramos’s departure also relieved the wage bill. Madrid are confident Mbappe’s arrival would not infringe La Liga’s tightly controlled salary cap, based on individual clubs’ spending-to-income ratios.
Even the figure of €160m, a sum declared "unacceptable" by Leonardo, would exceed by a distance Madrid’s largest spend on a single player, with Eden Hazard (2019), Gareth Bale (2013) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2009) all signed for around €100m. Madrid may yet be ready to almost double their previous record for the fleet-footed young French star.
If they capture Mbappe, it would be a powerful shot across the bows of ambitious, upwardly-mobile PSG.