So in the end it was not Kylian Mbappe’s dream to play for Real Madrid. They will not enjoy his prime years at the Santiago Bernabeu. There will be no grand unveiling this summer and, even worse, there is not a single euro of compensation coming their way because nothing was signed.
It’s a decision that illustrates perfectly how much football has changed since the early 2000’s when Real Madrid bought a superstar a season. Not just in the way that Manchester City (Erling Haaland) and Paris Saint Germain (Mbappe) have replaced Real Madrid as the go-to club for every prospective Balon d’Or winner.
But also in the way players now laugh in the face of clubs expecting free transfers to actually be ‘free’, or wanting them to sign pre-contracts.
Kylian Mbappe has signed a new deal with PSG to keep him at the French club until 2025
When Real Madrid successfully pursued Figo from Barcelona in 2000 Florentino Perez said he would pay all the club’s supporters season tickets if Figo did not end up signing. He could make the promise because Figo had signed an agreement that meant if he renegaded on joining Madrid he would have to pay them 30m euros.
There was no such pre-agreement this time. If Perez had suggested such a commitment to Mbappe’s mother Fayza Lamari he would have been told: thanks but I do not think we’ll be doing that.
The player played his hand perfectly running down his deal and therefore not just earning a new contract and salary, but his very transfer fee estimated at around 150m euros. Madrid were offering 130m.
‘Kylian has betrayed Real Madrid and he has betrayed himself and his own childhood dream,’ said one Madrid reporter on late-night radio. Spain’s biggest late-night football show ‘El Chiringuito’ meanwhile said that Perez had been speaking to Mbappe on Skype every 15 days – one can only imagine how the last few conversations were: ‘the screen seems to have frozen Kylian, are you still there ? ‘
The striker looked likely to join Real Madrid, but he will now remain in the French capital
Real used to buy a superstar a season but Manchester City and PSG have overtaken them
The word traitor has been bandied around a lot too. A term so over-used in so many spheres that it deserves to be retired on grounds of exhaustion. When the PSG fans chanted ‘Puta Madrid, Puta Madrid’ (F * cking Madrid, F * cking Madrid) that was definitely treachery, said another sad-faced Madrid correspondent. Others less partizan contributors reasoned that it was just a nervous grin – he’s going to gross around 25m euros a season, is he supposed to look miserable?
El Chiringuito did have a laugh at themselves by showing an internet meme of the year 2042 in which their presenter, artificially aged, can be seen still promising supporters about Mbappe’s imminent arrival.
Reporters close to Madrid had been reassured by the club right up until the last few weeks that the player was coming and would announce it after the end of the Ligue 1 season with a presentation at the start of July.
Those in the club briefed that way because that is what they believed would happen, but it’s a belief that is stuck 20 years in the past when first Figo, then Zidane, then Ronaldo and then David Beckham agreed to join them.
Manchester City have acquired the services of Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund
Reporters in Spain have criticized Mbappe for going back on his word with Real Madrid
Those four also said that it was a dream to join the club, but maybe Madrid are kidding themselves if they think it was the dream that made them sign. No, it was the money. And now the football money is not in Madrid it’s in Qatar and Abu Dhabi.
Madrid flirted with the idea of pushing harder for Haaland once they started to suspect Mbappe might be negotiating just as keenly with PSG as he was with them. But the truth is they would not have got Haaland either.
Javier Tebas is furious at the way PSG can pay such huge sums while recording losses. But the whole football financial fairplay ball rolled into the brambles long ago and no one who who has the power to do anything, has any interest in retrieving it.
It’s wrong to say that Spain or Spanish football is furious over Mbappe, however. Madrid fans are upset and Tebas knows missing out on the two biggest young talents – one going to the Premier League and another staying in France – is bad news but there are plenty of other supporters still laughing at Madrid’s expense.
LaLiga’s Javier Tebas is furious at the way PSG can pay such huge sums while recording losses
The joke has been on Barcelona all season as they struggle with La Liga’s financial fairplay rules (regulations that it seems can not be broken) but their supporters have enjoyed sitting back and seeing Madrid fail in their grand transfer coup.
When one reporter tweeted that it had been a bad day not just for Madrid fans but for all Spanish football supporters one Barcelona fan tweeted in response: ‘I’ve been running around the house naked since last night. I’m thinking of going out on the street and standing on my head, so imagine how badly I’m taking it. ‘
Madrid have set themselves up for this by allowing expectations to build with no real substance. ‘I never agreed anything with Real Madrid’ tweeted Fayza Lamari yesterday. They can still have the last laugh of course by winning the Champions League next weekend.
They are going to have win on the pitch because for a long time now they have lost the ability to win off it, in the transfer market.