In a startling revelation, Kylian Mbappe on Monday said he had discussed his potential transfer to Real Madrid with French President Emanuel Macron, two days after the announcement that the Paris Saint-Germain forward signed a contract extension with the Ligue 1 champions.
World Cup winner Mbappe had for months seemed certain to sign for the Spanish giant before being persuaded to sign a new three-year deal at PSG, the club he joined in 2017.
Mbappe said he was convinced last year was the right time to leave Parc des Princes and join the La Liga champion but the French forward said the call of home led to him signing the contract that will keep the 23-year-old tied with the French clubuntil 2025.
He said he appreciated the “good advice” of the French president, who wanted the Paris Saint-Germain star to stay in France.
“We talked quite a bit,” Mbappe told reporters of his exchanges with Macron. “You can say that it was good advice. “He wanted me to stay, that’s part of the negotiations.”
Mbappe said that Macron was one of a number of different people to whom he had talked, including his teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar.
“It’s then that you see that football has changed and has an important place in society. It’s important to also know how to stay in one’s place despite the importance that can be given to me in the country.”
Real had pursued Mbappe last year when he had a year left on his contract and though they had reported bids as high as 200 million euros ($213 million) rejected last summer, they were ready to wait and sign him for free this year.
“It’s always been a difficult decision… I wanted time to make the right decision. I didn’t have any issues with pressure because I’ve been living with that since I was 14,” Mbappe said.
“Everybody knows I wanted to leave last year. I was convinced that it was the best decision at the time. The context is different now, in sporting terms and personal terms,” he noted.
“France is the country where I grew up, I’ve always lived here and leaving wasn’t right… The sporting project has changed as well, that made me want to stay, I don’t think my story is over yet .”
Mbappe said he made his much-awaited decision last week but the club told him not to tell his teammates as they wanted to keep it a secret and surprise the world.
“I made the decision before the call with (Real President) Florentino Perez,” Mbappe said.
“I have lots of respect for him and for Real Madrid. They wanted to do a lot to make me happy. So I thank them for that … I’d like to thank Real fans.
“I hope they’ll understand the fact I’ve chosen to stay in my country. The reality is I’m French. As a Frenchman, I want to stay here and take France towards the top, take this club and league forwards.”
Mbappe also revealed that PSG would not block him from playing in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Paris-born Mbappe was raised in the northeastern Parisian suburb of Bondy, part of the Seine-Saint-Denis department that is home to not only the Stade de France but also several other Olympic sites including the Olympic Village.
There is no doubt that the potential participation of a star-quality, home-grown talent in the Summer Games would be a massive boost for organizers.
“First of all I have to be picked,” Mbappe said of the possibility of taking part in Paris 2024. “We talked about it with the club.
“The club are not against it, they are for it. There weren’t any problems with regard to that in negotiations.”
No say on transfers
There has been speculation that as well as a gigantic, undisclosed financial package, PSG’s Qatari owners had persuaded Mbappe to remain with his hometown club by agreeing to give the 23-year-old forward some say in which players to sign for next season.
Mbappe, however, denied any such agreement had been made.
“I remain a footballer, who is part of a team, and I will not go beyond this role. I won’t go beyond my role as a player,” he said at a press conference seated alongside PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi.
When asked if he wanted to be PSG captain, Mbappe said: “We have one here, so I’m not taking the armband from Marquinhos, he deserves it. I don’t need to be the captain to give my point of view and set an example on the pitch.”
Mbappe also said nobody had made any fuss about image rights.
“To be honest, we’ve spoken for months about the sporting project and just for a few minutes we spoke about the money and sporting image (rights),” he added.
Hours after Mbappe announced on Saturday that he was staying at the club came the news that PSG’s powerful sporting director Leonardo – heavily criticized by supporters – had been sacked.
Al-Khelaifi said Mbappe’s decision to stay at the French champions sent “a very strong sign.”
“We are keeping the best player in the world,” the president said.
“This is a great day for Paris Saint-Germain, for our supporters in France and in the whole world – Kylian is staying at PSG for the next three seasons and that is important for us and for Ligue 1.”
‘La Liga isn’t the same’
La Liga had reacted angrily to Mbappe’s contract extension, saying it would file a complaint against PSG to European soccer’s governing body UEFA, saying the deal “attacks the economic stability” of European football.
But al-Khelaifi said it was a case of sour grapes as the Spanish league had lost its sheen.
“I think the president of our league can respond to that. Maybe it’s a good thing if Ligue 1 is doing better than La Liga,” al-Khelaifi noted.
“I think this is a positive thing for us and Ligue 1. La Liga isn’t the same as three or four years ago. I think it’s fantastic for France, we’re keeping the best player in the world in France.
“Last week everyone thought we lost him. We were not sure, to be honest, but I’ve always believed in him and his family.
Al-Khelaifi refused to reveal if Mbappe’s contract was the biggest in the history of the club but said they had made an “investment in France” by keeping the 2018 World Cup winner.
“(Keeping Mbappe) was a sporting decision rather than a financial one,” he said.