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After over a year of speculation and negotiations, Kylian Mbappé has shocked the footballing world by rejecting a €200 million move to the iconic Real Madrid. It had seemed certain that the 23-year-old French superstar was Madrid-bound, but he has instead chosen to extend his contract with PSG. The new deal will keep him at the club until at least 2025, with reports suggesting that Mbappé’s weekly figures will be at over €1 million per week, along with a staggering €100 million sign-on bonus. Additionally, potential bonuses over the next three years amount to nearly €300 million. This deal makes him the highest paid player in the world—even higher than football legends and fellow teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr.
Prior to the official announcement of the extension, there were rumors that Mbappé would be made the head of PSG’s sporting project as a part of the deal. This process is a major aspect of the deal, because it would give him an unprecedented amount of power in off-pitch issues, such as the appointment of managers, sporting directors, and officials in the club’s hierarchy. This arrangement would practically turn PSG into Mbappé F.C., not a place where the player serves the club, but rather where the club serves the player. The effects of this clause have already started to play out. Shortly following the confirmation of the contract extension, Sporting Director Leonardo Araújo was sacked after the club consulted Mbappé, who explained that he no longer wants to work with him. Mbappé has already named Luis Campos, the Portuguese director of football with whom he had worked when playing for AS Monaco, as his desired successor to Araújo. It also seems like a matter of time before manager Mauricio Pochettino gets sacked, following Mbappé’s newfound input on club matters.
Can any one player be worth this much money on top of unprecedented managerial powers? There is a valid argument for PSG wanting to give up everything to keep their young superstar, as Mbappé’s statistics speak for themselves. At just 23, he has already won more than most players will win in their entire careers: he is a World Cup champion, a five-time Ligue 1 Champion, a two-time French Player of the Year, a two-time Coupe de la Ligue Champion, and a multiple-time FIFA World XI finalist. This season alone, Mbappé has totaled 39 goals and 26 assists, with 28 and 17, respectively, solely in Ligue 1, making him both the top goal scorer and assist maker for the 2021-2022 season in the French league. Across the big five European Leagues, Mbappé has 42 goal contributions, a record in these leagues.
In regard to footballing ability, it’s a no-brainer for any team to want a player like Mbappé, considering the stellar individual performances he puts in. Let’s take an example. Right after his announcement of deciding to stay at PSG, he went and scored a hat trick against FC Metz, leading his club to a 5-0 demolition job of the opposition. It was a statement performance by the young man, which basically amounted to him saying, “Yes, I am worth it.” His outstanding ability and contributions are why both Real Madrid and PSG were willing to shell out so much money for him. And so, solely based on his performances, it is definitely valid for any club to sit down at the negotiating table and place a blank checkbook on the table, allowing Mbappé to write any number he would like.
For any player, these are abnormally impressive statistics, but what makes them significant is the young age at which he has accomplished these feats. The world of football has been desperate to find an heir to the throne of the kingdom that Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are soon to leave behind. Both of these football legends are instantly recognizable figures, even among non-football fans, because they have consistently played at the highest levels for over a decade. As they reach their late 30s, retirement becomes a sooner reality, and both athletes have already begun adjusting their playing style to minimize the physical toll they take from playing the beautiful game. As a result, football needs a new face, and with Mbappé, that’s exactly what you have: the future face of the sport. He’s young and fresh, and he already has a huge celebrity-like status, with over 71 million Instagram followers. Making the young French celebrity superstar the face of your club has immense commercial potential, and it attracts millions of people to be interested in wherever he plays, simply because he’s Mbappé.
Furthermore, the Qatari state-backed investment group Qatar Sports Investments owns PSG. So, given the controversy surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which is right around the corner, tying down the Frenchman would have been a top priority for them, with the potential of utilizing Mbappé to improve the image of the tournament.
It’s also useful to contextualize this decision by looking at Mbappé’s personal reasons to stay, since without his desire to remain at PSG, no deal would have been possible. Mbappé grew up in the Parisian suburb of Bondy and was born just six months after France’s 1998 World Cup win, 11 kilometers from the Stade de France. Paris is a part of his identity. It runs through his veins, and in many ways, it almost seems like he was born to play for it. By staying at PSG, Mbappé is going to remain in his familiar home country. He said as much on Twitter: “Leaving my country wasn’t the right thing.” From his perspective, it is perfectly rational for him to accept PSG’s offer because he is well established at the club and familiar with his teammates, the staff, the league, and the competition level. Critics argue that Ligue 1 is a farmer’s league, where a single team is so dominant that the level of competition is considered inadequate and that he should either look for more of a challenge elsewhere or risk degrading the prestige of his career. Despite these concerns, when you take into account the aforementioned financial benefits; the power he has been granted; homeland sentimentality; calls from some of France’s most powerful men, including French president Emmanuel Macron, imploring him to stay; and even his mother’s invitation to Doha by the French club, this deal becomes a no-brainer for Mbappé.