Almost as soon as Lionel Messi put pen to paper on a deal to make him a Paris Saint-Germain player, the Argentine’s face was plastered across the front of the Parc des Princes. They didn’t even wait to picture Messi in the shirt of his new team, photoshopping him into a PSG kit for the billboard. No time was wasted in showing off their transfer market trophy.
But by instantly making Messi the face of PSG, the Ligue 1 outfit have seemingly made it more difficult to keep another billboard superstar happy with Kylian Mbappe reportedly unimpressed at being the supporting act at a club he was promised would be his to headline for years to come.
In fact, Mbappe could be on his way out of PSG this month with long-time admirers Real Madrid prepared to pay €180m for the World Cup-winner. The 22-year-old, now into the final year of his contract at the Parc des Princes, is thought to be keen on a move, giving PSG a choice to make – keep Mbappe to play alongside Messi for one season and lose him on a free next summer, or cash in now.
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Mbappe would pitch up at the Santiago Bernabeu at an interesting point in Real Madrid’s recent history. For starters, the stadium itself remains a building site as the Spanish club plans for a brighter future, and this provides an apt metaphor for the process the team on the pitch is currently going through too.
Real Madrid’s current side is their weakest for over a decade. While talents like Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard might keep Los Blancos in the title hunt, it’s unlikely Carlo Ancelotti’s team will be in contention for the Champions League this season – Europe is the barometer for all Real Madrid teams.
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema (L) celebrates his goal with Real Madrid’s Belgian forward Eden Hazard goal during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the
Image credit: Getty Images
But Mbappe’s arrival this summer would restore Real Madrid as Europe’s most glamorous club. The most marquee of the sport’s marquee teams. It would mark the start of a new age for the Spanish club in the same way Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing in 2009 rebooted the ‘Galacticos’ ideology.
Widely considered the greatest footballer of his generation, Messi’s arrival in the French capital represented a seismic shift in the balance of power at the top of the European game. By leaving Barcelona, one of the sport’s most historic and storied clubs, for oil-rich PSG, the 34-year-old inadvertently passed comment on the current condition of elite level football.
But for all PSG’s wealth, Messi’s first choice was still to stay at Barcelona. He only moved to the Ligue 1 club because they were essentially his only option. The Argentine might well have opted to sign for Manchester City, where former manager and mentor Pep Guardiola is, had they had the resources to fund a move.
On the other hand, Mbappe would be passing up the opportunity to play alongside arguably the greatest player of all time to join a club in the midst of a rebuild. Much has been said about the quality of La Liga this summer amid an exodus of world class players, but this would prove Real Madrid’s prestige as a club remains intact.
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Alongside international team-mate Benzema, Mbappe would forge one of Europe’s most formidable strike partnerships at Real Madrid. This would give Ancelotti something to build around and would give renewed purpose to a club that has lacked any sort of vision since the exit of Ronaldo three years ago.
Meanwhile, PSG would be left pondering whether signing Messi, and the fuss the transfer caused, was really worth it. Regret probably won’t enter the mind of Nasser Al Khelaifi when Messi is scoring goals for fun in Ligue 1 over the next two seasons, but after that he might be forced to watch Mbappe claim his status as the world’s best player at another club.
The signing of Messi symbolised the intent of PSG to join the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid as bona fide members of the sport’s elite. It was a shortcut to such a standing, but it could yet prove to be the thing that stunts their growth if it means Mbappe leaving.
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Source: Euro Sports