Kylian Mbappe's future up in the air after world-record €300m bid by Al Hilal

Forward left out of French side's Far East tour following Saudi Pro League offer

Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe is the subject of a reported €300m bid from Saudi Pro League club Al Hilal. AFP
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Posters advertising the event have been hastily redrawn. Paris Saint-Germain, the club who last month had the captains of Argentina and France on their staff, have touched down in Japan for the pre-season tour without the departed Lionel Messi.

That they foresaw. But, in the bombshell development of their summer, PSG are also without Kylian Mbappe, whose face had been the most conspicuous in the marketing material for the event.

The Frenchman has stayed behind in Paris, not because of injury but because of an increasingly aggressive stand-off between him and his employers. The Mbappe saga is the long shadow cast over Tuesday's highly-anticipated Osaka friendly for PSG against Al Nassr. Less than a week ago, it had a deluxe cast list: Cristiano Ronaldo on the one side, facing off against Mbappe on the other.

The meeting of the most electric attacking footballer of his generation and the French flyer who has assumed that mantle in the next is on hold, perhaps for ever, although if Al Hilal, of Saudi Arabia’s Pro League, were to realise their bold ambition of buying Mbappe this summer, the next CR7-Kylian match-up would take place soon enough – and in a competitive setting, in Riyadh in late November.

A world record bid of around €300 million ($332 million) for Mbappe from Al Hilal has been put to PSG. But it is unlikely the skipper of France, 24, will be planning a move to the Pro League at this stage in his career. What the bid signals, though, is that PSG have effectively acknowledged their superstar is for sale, and that, if market-busting fees are already being offered, then that is what any buyer should expect to pay.

Mbappe is publicly insisting he expects to be a PSG player through the coming season, honouring his contract. His employers are increasingly convinced he intends to move on – to Real Madrid – in 11 months' time.

That belief led to his exclusion from the Japan trip. When Mbappe, the club’s leading scorer for the past five seasons and the highest-earning footballer in Europe, was told late on Friday to stay at home instead of boarding the flight for the four-match tour of the Far East, it raised the stakes in an escalating confrontation between PSG’s Qatar-based owners and Mbappe.

At issue is the striker’s refusal to sign a contract extension that would take the lucrative deal he signed last year to 2025. At present it expires next summer, which means Mbappe can make a formal agreement with another club as early as this January and leave Paris for free next June.

That equation puts PSG, who paid €180 million for Mbappe in 2018 and have committed a similar amount again to him in salary and bonuses, in a bind. To guarantee any sort of financial return on their investment, they would need to sell him in this transfer window – or for far less in the 2024 winter window – or get his signature on that extension.

PSG’s present posture is that Mbappe will leave for an unprecedented transfer fee or extend his contract, and that they will stick firmly to their position because “nobody is above the club”.

They played hardball with Messi at the tail-end of last season, when the Argentinian missed a practice session, suspending him for, initially, two weeks.

Messi left for Miami last month. PSG are acutely aware of a perception that in the past they have yielded too much to Mbappe’s demands.

In May 2022, he agreed his lavish contract with the club when they were under the very real threat of losing him to Madrid for free, and celebrated the deal by presenting him with a PSG jersey that had "Mbappe 2025" emblazoned on it.

In fact, the deal specified only that he was tied to Paris until 2024, with an option of extra year – an option he has declined so far.

The impasse will not be easily resolved, even if Al Hilal, as reported, are willing to pay a vast transfer fee and take on Mbappe only for a single season – which would allow him to move to Madrid, or elsewhere, in 2024 – because among Mbappe’s priorities are to be playing in the European Champions League next season.

It is an especially significant season, too. Mbappe will skipper France at the European Championships at the end of it. He has ambitions to represent his country’s football team at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

From where he stands now, estranged by 6,000 miles from his teammates, that all seems a long way off.

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Updated: July 25, 2023, 4:47 AM