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Why Kylian Mbappe’s Real Madrid Reversal Shows That Football Is Dead

Kylian Mbappe renews contract with PSG


The game’s gone, lads.

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This statement can be frequently heard in footballing circles and on social media over the past few years, mostly to do with the frustrating nature of VAR calls or professional footballers diving around like babies to win a penalty. However, following last week’s events, with Kylian Mbappe rejecting Real Madrid and controversially extending his contract with Paris Saint Germain beyond 2022, we can say with absolute certainty that the game has well and truly gone.

Kylian Mbappe’s move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2022 felt like destiny. The Frenchman’s desire to join the most storied club in Europe was the biggest open secret in football, with Mbappe reportedly agreeing on personal terms with the team he supported as a boy last summer and holding positive talks with their brass as late as last week.

However, in a dramatic turn of events, Kylian Mbappe will no longer follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and join the Spanish giants, opting to renew his contract with PSG instead. Every player has a price, and PSG just happened to match Mbappe’s. The Frenchman has agreed to a three-year deal with the Parisian club and signed the most lucrative contract in football history. The specifics include a €100 million signing-on fee and a reported weekly wage of €1.5 million, making him the highest-paid player on the planet by a long shot.


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Such was the extent that PSG did not want to let their crown jewel walk away for free, Mbappe’s new contract also reportedly gives him a say in certain executive-level decisions. The Frenchman can approve signings and sales and have a say on who replaces Leonardo as the sporting director, with Luis Campos reportedly his preferred choice for the role.

While Kylian Mbappe’s last-minute change of heart majorly impacts Real Madrid’s short-term and long-term future, there are also wider macro implications to consider.

Mbappe extending his contract with PSG for these eye-watering sums is the final nail in the coffin for the current broken system in European football. It cements the grim reality that only a few state-run clubs and commercial powerhouses like Manchester United or Barcelona can afford to sign stars like Kylian Mbappe or Neymar in 2022 and truly compete financially.

The state of football in Europe has been teetering on the verge of a crisis ever since the idea of a breakaway Super League emerged a decade ago, but the recent trends of financial doping have entirely warped the notion of competitive balance in the sport. As stated by Javier Tebas – CEO of La Liga – in their statement on Saturday, it is ridiculous to think that a club that has suffered losses of €700 million in the last few seasons and has a wage bill of €600 million can afford to extend Mbappe for these mind-boggling amounts. Tebas went as far as to call it an insult to football, and despite his obvious ulterior motives to secure a new poster boy for La Liga, it is hard to disagree with his conclusion. 


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PSG’s existence betrays the very essence of sporting fairness and a level playing field. The French Champions have the 14 highest earners in Ligue 1 on their books, with Neymar’s annual salary of €41 million dwarfing the wage bills of most clubs in the bottom half of the table. Some have said that the true motive behind their record-breaking €222 million purchase of the Brazilian in the summer of 2017 was not only to sign a superstar but also to inflate the football transfer market, increasing the fees and wages to unimaginable heights to raise the barriers of entry for success. It was a Mukesh Ambani-esque disruption tactic designed to flip the cards on the house and ensure that only a select few clubs run by oligarchs or state funds can afford to buy a seat at the table.

This strategy has resulted in PSG winning eight of the last ten domestic titles, effectively turning Ligue 1 into a weekly training exercise for their collection of superstars. PSG have not tasted European success yet, but considering the amount of money they are throwing at their sports-washing project and a frontline of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi, it is just a matter of time before they claim that elusive title.

The same is true for Manchester City, another state-run club with owners who have dubious human-rights records. The money pumped in by Sheikh Mansour has helped them win four of the last five Premier League’s, and just like PSG and Mbappe, City have secured the other great star of the next decade, with Erling Haaland joining from Borussia Dortmund in a deal worth north of £200 million.


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For Real Madrid and Florentino Perez, on the other hand, this is a taste of their own medicine. They centred their entire transfer strategy over the past few years around Kylian Mbappe, hoping to anoint him as the next Galactico and succeed Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema as the new face of the club. The newly-renovated Santiago Bernabeu was meant to be a shrine in his honour, with the Frenchman envisioned to usher in a new generation of success for Los Blancos alongside Vinicius Jr and Eduardo Camavinga.

Every decision they have taken over the past few years has been with the Mbappe deal in consideration. From deciding to let go of club legend Sergio Ramos to selling Martin Odegaard, Raphael Varane and Sergio Reguilon, Real Madrid and Florentino Perez have been building up to a Mbappe climax since the minute he burst onto the scenes as a freckled teenager in Monaco.

However, after nearly five years of courting and flirting, the Spanish champions are left sitting with egg on their face, unable to use their magnetic pull on the best player in the world and eventually out-bid by a sports-washing project looking to turn European football into manager mode on FIFA. The grim reality for the rest of the world is that if the gold standard of legacy clubs Real Madrid can no longer match the financial muscle of Europe’s new oil-funded state powers, there is very little hope for the rest.


[Featured Image Credit: PSG – Paris Saint-Germain]