Kylian Mbappe’s Real Madrid transfer: the full inside story

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Real Madrid have been trying to sign Kylian Mbappé for years, and now they finally have their man.

The signing of the 25-year-old Frenchman was confirmed on Monday, more than two years after their previous attempt to land him.

In May 2022, Mbappé dramatically turned down a move to Madrid, making the last-minute decision to extend his contract with Paris Saint-Germain. This time, things have gone much smoother and there is great excitement from everyone in Madrid at the arrival of one of the best players in the world, especially with the squad that has just won the club’s 15th European Cup/Champions League already packed with young talent is there. .

But that doesn’t mean the free agent transfer was without intrigue — nor did it face any pushback.

This is the full story of how Madrid ended up signing Mbappe.

The beginning of 2024 marked the beginning of the end.

At the beginning of January, it was agreed at the Valdebebas training complex in Madrid – where the club’s offices are located – that a final attempt would be made to sign Mbappé.

Several meetings were held on the issue, but some senior figures in Madrid were not convinced that this was a good idea.

The thinking behind this was twofold. Firstly, there were concerns that the club’s interests could be damaged again following Mbappe’s ouster two years ago. Others simply felt that the time was not right – for both sporting and economic reasons.

Some preferred to be more cautious with the club’s finances, which are in good shape, even with the extensive renovation of their Santiago Bernabeu stadium, which will cost at least 1.3 billion euros.

Some thought the positive atmosphere in the dressing room could be affected if Mbappe came in as the highest-paid player, with the vast majority of his new teammates having won more trophies for the club. Some thought Madrid could get by just fine without him, especially with 17-year-old Brazilian Endrick about to arrive and the team already performing admirably.

In short, it was felt that Madrid’s project was working very well without Mbappé.

But club president Florentino Perez nevertheless decided that a new attempt would be made, taking into account the above factors. It was also decided that Mbappé would be given a deadline to respond to this new proposal, the terms of which would be lower than those of 2022. According to sources familiar with those previous talks – as all sources cited in this article indicated they prefer to speak anonymously to protect relationships – Mbappé was offered a six-season contract with a signing bonus of €130 million and a salary of €26 million per year.

Mbappé took a first step of his own on January 3 when, without consulting PSG, he stopped to talk to reporters after PSG defeated Toulouse in the Trophee des Champions – a match between the winners of last season’s Ligue 1 and the French Cup , just like the Community Shield in England.

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“In 2022, I didn’t know my decision until May,” Mbappe said in response to questions about his future. As it was the start of a new year, he was now in the last six months of his contract and was free to negotiate with interested clubs.

“If I know what I want, I shouldn’t let the decision drag on. It wouldn’t make any sense.”

Meanwhile, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said the club wanted him to stay: “He is the best player in the world, and the best for him is PSG. He is the core of the project. I ask everyone to leave Kylian alone.”

Mbappe with his Trophee des Champions winners medal (Christian Liewig – Corbis/Getty Images)

Mbappe’s words were interpreted positively in the Spanish capital, with Madrid already working on the details of their bid. When what they proposed reached the player’s entourage in the following days, the club announced that his salary (the offer was for slightly more than what Vinicius Junior and Jude Bellingham got) and his signing fee would make him their highest-paid player.

Perez was in regular contact with Mbappé during this process, something unusual for the Madrid club president. Normally his right-hand man, their director general Jose Angel Sanchez, handles the negotiations. Mbappe told Perez he wanted to move. All the while, Madrid maintained through media briefings that they had no interest in the player. But the reality was very different – ​​like The Athletics reported numerous times.

Sánchez traveled to Paris before Madrid took part in the four-club Supercopa de Espana tournament, played in Saudi Arabia from January 10 to 14. He returned full of optimism – another good sign, as he is usually cautious and very reserved.

By the end of that month, everyone in Madrid believed a deal would be done. But there was still no final agreement. Some people close to Mbappe were not as clear about the move as he was.

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Perez, pictured during a match in Madrid in January (Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

As reported by The Athletics By mid-February, influential members of his entourage were unconvinced by the offer as it was lower than what he earned at PSG and could earn from another potential suitor.

In conversations with Perez, the president outlined how signing for Madrid would raise the player’s profile to another sporting and marketing level, helping to bring in more personal income. With a few exceptions such as Vinicius Jr. Madrid’s split over image rights is typically 50 percent for the club and 50 percent for the player, although Mbappe’s share is expected to be in his favor.

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Sources at PSG still believed it was likely Mbappe would leave. They remembered how he had already decided last summer not to take up an option to stay for another year, and knew that he had repeatedly expressed his admiration for Madrid.

But these sources also explained that PSG felt “economically protected”. They described an agreement in principle with Mbappe, under which the club would be financially compensated if he left after the expiry of his contract on June 30. They said it was a complex arrangement involving several scenarios – including France’s captain waiving certain loyalty bonuses. would otherwise have been entitled to. Mbappé himself also talked about “protecting all parties” upon his departure, and discussions on this aspect are still ongoing.

It remains to be seen exactly what agreement Mbappe and PSG will make in this regard. But the French champions have always tried to emphasize that any move for the striker at the end of the 2023/24 season would not be a ‘free transfer’ in their eyes.

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Mbappé and Al-Khelaifi, pictured after PSG’s victory in the Coupe de France (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

Then came an important development.

On February 13, a Tuesday, Real Madrid played away against RB Leipzig in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League. Senior club figures traveled with inside information. They had been told that Mbappe would inform PSG of his decision to leave at the end of the season.

The news only became public on Thursday, but because the Madrid team was still in Germany, the club’s board informed head coach Carlo Ancelotti. Without being told whether Mbappe had actually signed a contract, the Italian was made clear that he could count on having the striker in his squad next season.

About ten days later, Mbappé was spotted on Spanish soil, but in Barcelona, ​​not Madrid, enjoying a few days off. A source said this The Athletics he had first gone to the capital to sign his contract.

Only this week, in early June, did two more sources share further information about the February talks. They said this was when Mbappe’s move was sealed.

The final stages of the negotiations were conducted in great secrecy. Madrid tends to operate this way, but sources involved in the deal also said that Mbappe’s mother and agent Fayza Lamari had requested no leaks at all so that her son would be as protected as possible during his final months at PSG.

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Mbappé scored 44 goals in 48 games for PSG last season (Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Some tensions followed between Mbappé and PSG, with manager Luis Enrique occasionally replacing him or leaving him out altogether. “We have to get used to playing without him,” the Spaniard said in March.

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After being substituted at half-time following a goalless draw at Monaco, his first professional club, on March 1, Mbappe sat in the stands with his family rather than on the bench with teammates. Just a few rows away, members of the PSG board were watching the rest of the match, and reports said a heated conversation was taking place between them and his mother. Madrid and the player camp believe that PSG have punished Mbappe by reducing his playing time. Sources at the French club dismiss this as untrue.

The end was approaching, but the fact that both PSG and Madrid were still in the Champions League contributed to the strategy of total discretion. However, three days after PSG were eliminated by Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals, Mbappé publicly decided to leave.

“I need a new challenge after seven years,” he said, thanking almost everyone at the club (notably Al-Khelaifi was not mentioned), but they didn’t know it was coming.

Mbappe wanted to make this known before PSG’s final home game of the season on Sunday, May 12. The club decided not to organize anything special for him, but the team’s ultras (with whom Mbappe had shared a barbecue on Friday) dedicated a big party to the match. tif for him.

The following Monday, Le Parisien newspaper reported that Al-Khelaifi and Mbappé had argued in the build-up to the match, with the former reproaching the latter for not mentioning him in his farewell video.

A PSG source strongly denied this had happened, adding that an agreement with Mbappe on the economic terms of his departure was close to being finalized.

Later that Monday, Mbappé was named Ligue 1 player of the year for the fifth season in a row. In his acceptance speech, he acknowledged Al-Khelaifi, who reiterated in 2021, 2022 and 2023 that his star player would not leave PSG for free.

“The new chapter will be very exciting,” Mbappe said of his next step, without revealing the identity of his next club. “Maybe it’s not the time (for everyone) to find out.”

The big reveal was always expected after the Champions League final last Saturday. Madrid didn’t want anything, not even the biggest signing they’ve ever made, to distract from something so important and difficult to achieve.

Early on Monday, two days after the club won a record-breaking 15th European Cup/Champions League title, The Athletics reported that the announcement would be made this week.

Now the time has finally come – and fans can excitedly look forward to seeing Mbappe in that famous white kit.

(Top photos: Getty Images; design: Eamonn Dalton)

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