PARIS: The door is open for Real Madrid to try signing Kylian Mbappe because the France superstar decided not to extend his Paris Saint-Germain contract into 2025.
Karim Benzema’s sudden departure from Madrid leaves the Spanish giant short of a star striker, and Mbappe perfectly fits the bill.
It could be third time lucky for Madrid, after Paris Saint-Germain rejected an offer of €180 million ($190 million) for Mbappe in 2021. Madrid missed out again last year when Mbappe — amid frenzied speculation that Madrid would get him to join — signed a new deal with PSG.
It included an option for an extra year. Now he’s told the club he will not trigger the 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 Mbappe to leave as a free agent.
This raised the possibility of an immediate transfer bidding war by Madrid and other clubs this summer.
Mbappe posted on Twitter on Tuesday to dismiss a newspaper report saying he wants to join Madrid this summer.
“LIES,” he wrote, adding: “I’ve already said I’ll continue with PSG next season.”
He said at the French league’s end-of-season awards two weeks ago that he will be a PSG player next season, while not saying if he would stay longer.
It means PSG face the prospect of him running down his contract and leaving for nothing to Madrid, or elsewhere.
The 24-year-old Mbappe 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, Mbappe seems unlikely to join them for a while yet.
With Madrid president Florentino Perez needing to rebuild, this gives him another shot at Mbappe, 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 have 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 are already preparing to spend €130 million ($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 Mbappe?
Here’s a look at where else Mbappe could go.
If anyone can easily afford Mbappe, it’s the club with the richest owners in soccer.
Newcastle have yet to really make a signature transfer to headline their new era under Saudi ownership — so how about signing the the 2022 World Cup’s top scorer?
Whether Mbappe would want to join Newcastle is another thing entirely.
Newcastle will play in the Champions League after a fourth-place finish but may not have enough top-quality players to tempt Mbappe.
United are the other team who probably have the wealth to afford Mbappe, 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.
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 Mbappe 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, they finished only one point ahead of Lens and were eliminated early again from the Champions League, 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.
Mbappe’s frustration was all too apparent toward the end of a disappointing campaign.