Kylian Mbappe not the missing piece of the puzzle but will only make Real Madrid better

Spanish and European champions announce that French star will join them on July 1

Kylian Mbappe joins in training with the France squad in a camp ahead of Euro 2024, which begins in Germany on June 14, 2024. AFP
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The worst-kept secret in football was confirmed yesterday when Real Madrid confirmed that Kylian Mbappe will join them on a five-year deal from July 1.

The move, in which Mbappe, 25, will join their galaxy of stars, could usher in a new dynasty for the European aristocrats still very much celebrating their latest crowning glory of a 15th European Cup.

After the announcement that Mbappe will officially join the Champions League winners next month, he will now join up with the France national team ahead of Euro 2024, which begins on June 14.

The pursuit of Mbappe, a 2018 World Cup winner and 2022 finalist with Les Bleus, has been long and protracted, with Madrid biding their time after Paris Saint-Germain refused to countenance selling last summer.

For his part, Mbappe has made no secret of his desire to leave PSG when his current deal expires on June 30, and has welcomed Madrid's past advances.

When Mbappe signed for PSG from Monaco, initially on a season-long loan in 2017 before the switch was made permanent a year later, it made him the second most expensive player in history after the Parisians parted with £165.7 million to secure his services.

Over the past seven years, Mbappe has become the club's all-time leading scorer with 256 goals in 308 appearances that also includes a host of trophies including six Ligue 1 titles and numerous domestic cups.

But PSG's continued failure to land European football's biggest prize, and Real Madrid's penchant for winning it, made a move inevitable. PSG reached the Champions League final in 2020 but finished runners-up to Bayern Munich and lost in the last-four stage during the current campaign to Borussia Dortmund, who were beaten 2-0 by Real Madrid on Saturday.

Losing a world-class talent like Mbappe for nothing will sting the Parisians; Mbappe's reported signing on fee of €100 million will make him feel the wait was worthwhile.

It's fair to ask how a team that has just won a La Liga and European Cup double can improve but there are few doubts Mbappe will do just that.

Madrid's win at Wembley on Saturday confirmed many known facts but also revealed some holes in their game that need addressing.

Real's resolve, particularly in European competition, is embedded in their DNA. As well as being the continent's most decorated club, they are also its great survivors. They rode their luck at times but the white wall held firm to withstand a Dortmund onslaught. It felt inevitable that, once Dortmund failed to capitalise on their dominance, Madrid would punish them at some stage.

What it also revealed is the team's need for a spearhead to lead the attack. Madrid's forays forward came almost exclusively from wide positions, an imaginary buffer zone operating the centre of the Wembley pitch whenever they were in the final third. The lack of a focal point was made all the more obvious by how well Niclas Fullkrug fulfilled that particular role at the tip of Dortmund's attack.

Mbappe may not be a centre-forward in the conventional sense but his goalscoring record is the envy of most. He has made runs from wide left to centre – the kind Vinicius Jr also favours – his trademark, but Madrid are masters of taking talented players and moulding them into a well-oiled machine.

Iron sharpens iron, as the saying goes. Cristiano Ronaldo became a better finisher learning under Gonzalo Higuain; Karim Benzema became a better striker after first earning his stripes alongside both. The churn at Real Madrid can be unforgiving, but the finished product is always sparkling.

Mbappe's arrival gives coach Carlo Ancelotti even more attacking riches to play with. He can use both Mbappe and Vinicius in a two-pronged attack, ably supported by Jude Bellingham at the tip of a diamond in midfield, with Rodrygo potentially operating from a wide right position. Alternatively, he may opt for a 4-3-3, with Mbappe at centre-forward and Vinicius and Rodrygo causing havoc around him.

The latter means sacrificing a midfielder but it could be the preferred option while Ancelotti determines how to replace the irreplaceable Toni Kroos.

Throw into the mix the 18-year-old Brazilian wunderkind Endrick, who moves to Madrid from Palmeiras this summer, and the job of making all the pieces fit is one Ancelotti and Madrid will relish.

Updated: June 03, 2024, 6:19 PM