The door looks wide open for Real Madrid to try signing Kylian Mbappé, because Karim Benzema’s sudden departure leaves the Spanish giant short of a star striker.
Madrid will hope it’s third time lucky, after Paris Saint-Germain rejected an offer of 180 million euros ($190 million) for Mbappé in 2021. Madrid missed out again last year when Mbappé — amid frenzied speculation that Madrid would get him to join — signed a new three-year deal with PSG until 2025.
Now he’s stunned the club by saying he will not trigger a 12-month extension on his contract, which expires at the end of next season.
The France superstar confirmed his decision in a letter to PSG, a person with knowledge of the correspondence told The Associated Press on Monday. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also said PSG would not allow Mbappé to leave as a free agent.
This immediately raised the possibility of an immediate transfer bidding war by Madrid and other clubs this summer. The 24-year-old Mbappé has a long connection with Madrid.
He visited the club when he was a youth before deciding instead to join Monaco, which then sold him to PSG in 2017.
He might be on another flight to Madrid before long.
The Ballon d’Or winner Benzema bid his farewell to Madrid last week after 648 games, 25 trophies and 354 goals for the club. He joined Al-Ittihad to become the the Saudi league’s latest star after Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Al-Nassr.
Given his stated ambition to win the Champions League and the Ballon d’Or, Mbappé seems unlikely to join them for a while yet.
With Madrid president Florentino Pérez needing to rebuild, this gives him another shot at Mbappé, especially since PSG won’t let him leave for free at the end of next season.
Although Madrid would have to pay huge wages, the fact PSG doesn’t want to lose him for nothing may lower the transfer fee.
Madrid has also freed up cash with Benzema off the wage bill along with fellow high earners Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio, who are also leaving. Asensio has also been linked with a move to PSG, which could factor into the bargaining.
An issue that could potentially hinder a bid might be the fact Madrid is already preparing to spend 130 million euros ($139 million) to sign 19-year-old England midfielder Jude Bellingham from German club Borussia Dortmund.
The clubs have reached an agreement on the transfer, though contract details still have to be “coordinated and completed,” Dortmund said last week.
It seems unlikely that transfer won’t go through, so can Madrid afford to also buy Mbappé?
Here’s a look at where else Mbappé could go.
If anyone can easily afford Mbappé, it’s the club with the richest owners in soccer.
Newcastle has yet to really make a signature transfer to headline its new era under Saudi ownership – so how about signing the the 2022 World Cup’s top scorer?
Whether Mbappé would want to join Newcastle is another thing entirely. The club has vast wealth, now it is controlled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, but not the lure of record 14-time Champions League winner Madrid.
It might be too much of a jump, too, for Newcastle, which will play in the Champions League next season after a fourth-place finish but may not have enough top-quality players to tempt Mbappé.
United is the other team which probably has the wealth to afford Mbappé, and the status.
It is historically considered the biggest club in England along with Liverpool.
However, it’s an awkward time for United to be putting together such an expensive transfer, given the club is up for sale and its owners — the Glazer family — are weighing up bids from Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe. The Glazers might not even sell at all, and instead take up other funding options.
Another question is whether Mbappé would want to go from one Qatari-owned club to another, especially if he has been unhappy at the way the PSG project has unfolded recently.
The prospect of United’s rival, Manchester City, being interested is unlikely considering the English and European champions already have a superstar striker in Erling Haaland.
STAY AT PSG?
If Mbappé changes his mind, then he has until July 31 to sign the one-year extension — or negotiate a longer deal.
But it looks like he’s done all he can with the club, where he is the all-time leading scorer with 212 goals.
Although PSG won the French title as expected, it finished only one point ahead of Lens and was eliminated early from the Champions League for the second straight season and from the French Cup.
PSG’s form slumped after the World Cup, with a total of 10 defeats in 28 games overall in 2023 far too high for a club with such vast resources.
Mbappé’s frustration, in his body language and way he reacted to his teammates, was all too apparent toward the end of a disappointing campaign.