Who will blink first in Kylian Mbappe-PSG impasse?

France star wants to win Champions League and club have to consider financial implications

Kylian Mbappe could well be on his way out of Paris Saint-Germain. Reuters
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Manchester City’s victory parade had barely begun when, 600 kilometres to the south, a would-be competitor for football’s biggest prizes was feeling a sharp pang of envy.

A letter, formal and cool in tone, had reached senior executives in the offices of Paris Saint-Germain and, on Monday evening, its contents were made public.

It was from PSG’s most valued employee. In it, Kylian Mbappe, 24, informed his bosses he does not intend to trigger the contract extension option in his current deal with them, a deal that expires next year.

On Tuesday he clarified, in a statement, that he has long regarded the two-year PSG commitment he signed in 2022 as no more than a two-year bind.

Mbappe’s overt signal he is preparing to leave has plunged PSG into an intense period of high-stakes confrontation with their superstar, a 24-year-old in a hurry to add a European Cup to his long list of honours.

Events in Istanbul, where City won their first Champions League at the weekend, have sharpened Mbappe’s ambitions. PSG, who have over the past decade spent similar sums on recruitment as City, are now the lone so-called "superclub" without a European Cup to their name.

If Mbappe lets his current contract wind down, he will in 12 months become available to move on without PSG recouping any fee at all on a player in whom they have invested hugely – €180 million to Monaco for signing him in 2018, plus vast wages and signing-on bonuses.

If they put him on the market this summer, they will lose a figurehead and their biggest match-winner, but would have a good chance of recouping something close to the money they paid Monaco.

Although the number of clubs who could viably bid that sort of fee are limited, there would be keen interest in the World Cup winner, who has been the leading goalscorer in France’s Ligue 1 in five different seasons.

Two summers ago, Real Madrid bid €200 million for Mbappe, initiating a tense saga that PSG now fear being replayed over the next 12 months. Then, PSG turned Madrid down even though Mbappe’s contract was to run out nine months later, meaning he could leave for free in June 2022. Madrid believed Mbappe intended to do just that.

Last May, however, he surprised Madrid, the club Mbappe has admired since childhood, by announcing he had committed to PSG for a further two years. He had been offered what was then the highest annual salary in the game’s history; he had been phoned by France’s president Emmanuel Macron, who told him it would be good for France to have the leading French sportsman remaining in France.

But PSG have hit a glass ceiling in Europe. Since they came under Qatari ownership in 2011, a net spend on transfers of close to €1 billion has yielded only a single silver medal in the Champions League. Since City defeated PSG in the semi-finals in 2021, there have been successive exits at the last-16 stage.

Mbappe’s disappointment, after a 3-0 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in March, was clear. “That was our maximum,” he said after an insipid PSG performance in the second leg. “We have to be realistic.”

The following month, he clashed publicly with the club, criticising PSG’s own marketing department for using clips from an in-house interview with him to sell season tickets for the 2023/24 season. “This is not Kylian Saint-Germain!” he posted.

Mbappe’s latest communication is harsher, and puts PSG in a dilemma: keep him and wave goodbye next June, leaving them empty-handed in financial terms; or sell now. PSG are understood to be ready to listen to high offers.

On principle they are reluctant to enter talks with Madrid, with whom PSG have an abrasive relationship, but also acknowledge that other big-spenders, like Chelsea, cannot offer Mbappe Champions League football next season.

Nor could Liverpool, who have previously shown interest in the France captain but would struggle to meet the price demanded by PSG.

City, meanwhile, have in the past two summers invested heavily in Jack Grealish, who operates from the left flank position favoured by Mbappe, and in Erling Haaland, 22, and bracketed with Mbappe as one of the superstar duo to dominate elite football for the next ten years.

At the weekend, Haaland beat Mbappe to a significant target, a first European Cup; over the season, Haaland outscored the Frenchman, with 52 goals across all competitions to Mbappe’s 41.

Madrid remain convinced Mbappe wishes to join them. While they urgently need a high-class striker to replace Karim Benzema, who has left for Al Ittihad of the Saudi Arabia Pro League, the Spanish club are prepared to wait until 2024 for him.

Harry Kane, whose contract with Tottenham Hotspur expires next June, is also a Madrid target. A successful swoop for Kane, 29, and likely to carry a price tag of close to €100 million this summer, would most likely exclude a simultaneous bid for Mbappe.

Updated: June 13, 2023, 2:01 PM