Cash-strapped Real Madrid can’t AFFORD to get ahead of Liverpool in the £173m chase of Kylian Mbappe… Cristiano Ronaldo is an idol for the PSG superstar but Real can only sign him if it’s for FREE
It wasn’t so long ago that for Liverpool to beat Real Madrid and Barcelona in the transfer market they would have had to pull at the heart strings of the player in question – winning him over with You’ll Never Walk Alone against the greater financial might of the Spanish clubs.
Now roles are reversed. If Real Madrid want Kylian Mbappe to move to Spain ahead of Merseyside or Manchester, they will have to sell him the idea of wearing Cristiano Ronaldo’s old No 7 shirt and lighting up the refurbished Santiago Bernabeu – money alone will no longer do the trick because the Premier League has the greater financial muscle.
Madrid still need to negotiate a squad-wide pay cut this season to avoid £78million (€90m) losses. They let Martin Odegaard and Luca Jovic out on loan in January, despite both being potentially vital squad players, to ease pressure on the wage bill.
And they are dreading the return of top earner Gareth Bale next summer with a year still left on his lucrative contract.
Kylian Mbappe is the most wanted man in football but for once Real Madrid have competition
As a young child in France Mbappe adored Cristiano Ronaldo and followed his every move
They simply cannot afford Mbappe this summer with a €200m (£173m) transfer fee on top of wages.
PSG’s valuation of the player can be interpreted in two ways. It’s either suggests a pessimism over the player signing a new deal that would keep him at the Ligue 1 club beyond the summer of 2022.
Or it is just their way of saying he’s simply not for sale. This is PSG after all so €200m means €200m, it’s not an invitation to haggle, and if they have to lose him for free in a year’s time, they will. They have done it with other players, they even left Adrien Rabiot in the stands for half a season. Money is no object. Financial fair play rules matter but finances don’t.
This week, on the biggest stage of all, Mbappe smashed a hat-trick past Barcelona
Increasingly Madrid see their best chance of landing the player coming from him only having eyes for them. As Ronaldo Nazario once said: ‘Top players always play where they want to’.
Mbappe certainly seems to have learned Spanish judging from his perfectly elocuted: ‘I’d kill you in the street’ to Jordi Alba on Tuesday at the Nou Camp.
If he is prepared to see out his current deal at PSG and then follow a boyhood dream of being the new Ronaldo and joining the club his mother once declared he was destined to play for, then Madrid will get their man. But it will have to be, in part at least, a sentimental decision.
Mbappe visited Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training ground as a teenager in 2012. It was on then youth team coach Zinedine Zidane’s recommendation that he came. Linking up with Zidane would be another incentive if the French coach can last long enough in the job.
Mbappe was photographed with Cristiano Ronaldo on the visit, the man whose posters were plastered over his bedroom wall. And one Madrid-based L’Equipe journalist spoke about Mbappe’s mother Fayza Lamari admitting to friends a conviction that her son would end up playing at the club.
During a visit to the training ground as a young teenager, Mbappe met Ronaldo for a photo
Ronaldo’s legend at Madrid inspired Mbappe and now they want him to follow in his footsteps
If the emotional pull works then Florentino Perez will be able to deliver the player fans want him to sign. But there is a nervousness about the situation and private admissions that the old guarantees of Madrid always getting their man are no longer in place.
No two clubs in the world have been hit as hard by the economic aftershock of the pandemic as much as Barclona and Real Madrid.
If Mbappe’s dad Wilfried does sit down with Nasser Al-Khelaifi to negotiate a new contract at PSG it will be to, at the very least, draw him level with Neymar who earns £32m (€37m) net a season. To match that would cost Madrid €74m a season gross and over the course of a five-year contract that amounts to €370m.
A best case scenario of supporters back in full stadiums and airports open for normal business again the world over could make it more feasible, but if football returns to where it was when Lionel Messi signed his last contract in 2017 then Mbappe will be asking for more than €74m a season.
Madrid see Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool as a real threat when it comes to their pursuit of Mbappe
All this would be a gamble for a club who have to begin paying back the €575m credit taken out to renew the stadium in 2023.
In the meantime, other clubs without the same financial obstacles rub their hands with the sight of competition from LaLiga for the world’s best players waning.
It seems unlikely that Ligue 1, with its own financial problems, will be able to hold on to Mbappe for that much longer. Just as the Bundesliga might struggle to contain Erling Haaland.
But guarantees that Real Madrid could fight off Premier League competition with a wave of the cheque book are long gone.
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