How Mbappe's failure affected Real Madrid

How Mbappe’s failure affected Real Madrid


For Real Madrid, it was supposed to be a seven-day dream.

Announce the signature of Kylian Mbappe – probably the most sought after player in the world – at the beginning of the week and win the Champions League at the end of the week.

This was the expectation of club president Florentin Perez, who was very confident that an agreement with the French striker who won the World Cup would be concluded.

Ten Mbappe decided to stay in Paris St-Germain did not turn out well. The Madrid press was apopletical to the point that, earlier this week, all the news was about not reaching an agreement rather than the trifles of Saturday’s final against Liverpool.

The fallout involved Karim Benze’s controversy, but in reality this may be good news for some of the Bernabeu’s key players.

Either way, it was definitely not a preparation for their 14th Champions League title that Real Madrid expected.

Kylian Mabppe smiles at a press conference
If Kylian Mbappe expires his contract at PSG, he will work for the club for eight years

While Liverpool’s preparations for the Paris finals included dealing with the disappointment of losing a point in the Premier League for Manchester City, Real Madrid’s team had to face a completely different hurdle.

Their camp certainly had an element of disappointment at Mbappe’s failure to sign, as many of the group looked forward to the chance to play with him, not least because they were assured that his arrival was a done deal.

The Madrid media felt the same, and the main reason for the ensuing uproar was that all they had heard recently – or believed – was Perez’s version of events.

According to sources from the president’s surroundings, everything was agreed. Mbappe began looking for real estate in Madrid, his presentation to adoring fans was already organized, and Perez actually said at private meetings and dinners that everything was done.

Perez told everyone that the player had counted the days before his arrival, and the rejection of PSG’s new contract over the past eight months only confirmed their belief that this was indeed the case.

But Mbappe always said unequivocally that he would decide at the end of the season.

Real Madrid told him he had to choose between money and fame, and there was a lot of talk this week about opting for money.

However, his motivation was definitely more than just financial.

Despite what you may have read or heard, Mbappe did not say “no” to Real Madrid in his mind, but rather “yes” for PSG and stay in their native France. That was clear to me when I met him this week in Paris interview him for BBC Sport.

In the end, there was very little choice between the offers on the table from both clubs, and the player firmly believes that he has unfinished business in Paris.

Of course, money was an important factor for a 23-year-old, but it’s also about love – which is plentiful in Paris – and power, three things that people long for. The player will now become the club’s focal point and everyone will have to adapt. And yes, including Lionel Messi. Let’s see how it works.

Mbappe is also more than aware of the fact that at the end of his new lucrative contract he will be only 26 years old and probably at his absolute peak. Then anything can happen; never say never.

The current star of Real Madrid, Karim Benzema, is 37 years old and may not be in the club after the contract expires. Maybe it will help explain his bizarre post on InstagramExternal link a picture of Tupac Shakur with a background image of the rapper’s “friend” who allegedly betrayed the artist before his murder in 1996. This was considered less than a subtle signal to emphasize Mbappe’s own “betrayal.”

The pair are, of course, teammates from France, and Mbappe quickly pointed out that, in his view, this infantile response had more to do with Real Madrid’s power to do mischief than with anything that came from Benzema itself.

Benzema was certainly not impressed that he was involved in the saga, and in fact this week required his intervention to change his mood.

He effectively pressed the reset button on Tuesday during the Champions League media day and said the time to discuss these small issues is long gone and now is the time to focus on the match.

Two people who will not break their hearts at Mbappe’s no-show in Madrid, namely Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo, are taking part in Saturday’s final.

Vinicius has played more minutes this season than any other Real Madrid player and has been an outstanding player in the Champions League. Rodrygo was used less regularly, but probably provided moments of the European football season when he scored twice in the worst moments of their Champions League semi-final against Manchester City to maintain a tie.

Greater support for Vinicius, who, by the way, was told as a 16-year-old that the club looked to him as its future rather than Mbappe, is now inevitable. Suddenly, its potential importance for Spanish champions increased significantly. Vinicius will probably benefit from not having to look over his shoulder.

As he writes, new contracts are negotiated for him and Rodryg. None of them are ‘Mbappe’, but Real Madrid now realizes that this is the coat he has to cut into. They can no longer compete in the purchase of superstars and will have to go the way of signing extremely talented young men, such as the pair and also Eduardo Camavinga, to become superstars.

The big question now is, where is this whole saga leaving Real Madrid and its president off the field?

There is no doubt that it is time to control reality for Perez and the club as a whole. Neither of them is used to finishing second in the transfer negotiations, but they too have to come to terms with the timing of these huge deals, it is now in the hands of the players, because Mbappe has dealt with this situation – letting the contract expire and wait, until the end of the season to announce their decision – changed the transfer environment.

Perez is a most astute leader with a killer instinct, and previous negotiations have shown the football world that they and Real Madrid will always get what they want.

But not anymore.

Florentino Pérez
Real Madrid President Florentino Perez had to answer questions this week after his confidence that Kylian Mbappe would join the club this summer turned out to be wrong.

The arrival of state-affiliated clubs such as Manchester City (Abu Dhabi) and PSG (Qatar) brought seismic change to European football. The order of pecking has changed on and off the field, the two young superstars have decided to entrust their future to at least these clubs – Erling Haaland to Manchester City and Mbappe to PSG – rather than Real. Madrid and Barcelona.

Real Madrid’s inability to get Mbappe’s deal across the line means that it has not only lost weight and market prestige in the eyes of the world watching, but most of all it has lost face. This is not a nice feeling for a club that is considered the most important in the world.

But with all that being said, the disappointment that he lost Mbappe should not obscure the fact that Real Madrid is still very well run, with manageable debt despite the redevelopment of the stadium, with a team that is evolving and that is rejuvenate in the summer.

And let’s not forget they are one match since completing the La La League and the Champions League.

When I spent time with them in Madrid on Tuesday, they seemed to have the peace of the serial winners, the calm heads of those who were used to being in the grand finals. The players entered the biggest week of the season, as if walking on the beach in flip-flops. It’s not arrogance. It feels like they have nothing to lose – but they have a good chance of winning.

Yes, they lack the extra dimension that Galactico would give them in the commercial world.

But how much do they need it on the field itself? We may find out on Saturday against Liverpool.

Guillem Balague appears every Thursday on the BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily podcast, focusing on European football.

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