Kylian Mbappe’s transfer to Real Madrid: the whole inside story

Real Madrid have been trying to land Kylian Mbappe 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 the previous attempt to sign him.

In May 2022, Mbappe dramatically rejected a move to Madrid, instead making a last-minute decision to renew his contract at Paris Saint-Germain. This time things have gone much better and there is great enthusiasm among everyone in Madrid for the arrival of one of the best players in the world, especially with the team that has just won the club’s 15th European Cup/Champions League already full of young talents.

But that doesn’t mean the free-agent move came without intrigue – or even entirely uncontested.

This is the full story of how Real Madrid finally signed Mbappe.

The beginning of 2024 marked the beginning of the end.

In early January, it was agreed at Madrid’s Valdebebas training complex – where the club’s offices are also located – that a final attempt would be made to sign Mbappe.

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

The thinking behind this was twofold. First there was concern that the club’s interests could be damaged again following Mbappe’s rejection two years ago. Others simply thought it wasn’t the right time, whether for sporting or economic reasons.

Some have preferred to be more cautious with the club’s finances – which are in good shape, even with the extensive redevelopment of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, which will cost at least €1.3 billion (£1.1 billion; £1.4 billion). dollars at current rates).

Some thought the positive atmosphere in the dressing room could be influenced by Mbappe coming in as the highest paid player when the vast majority of his new teammates had won multiple trophies for the club. Some thought Real Madrid could do well without him, especially with 17-year-old Brazilian Endrick arriving and the team already performing admirably.

In short: it was thought that Real Madrid’s project worked really well without Mbappé.

But club president Florentino Perez still decided to give it another try, taking into account the above factors. It was also decided that Mbappe will be given a deadline to respond to this new proposal, the terms of which would be shorter than those of 2022. According to sources close to those previous talks, like all the sources cited in this article, they preferred to anonymously to protect relationships — Mbappe was offered a six-season contract with a signing bonus of €130 million and a salary of €26 million per year.

Mbappe took a first step on January 3 when, without consulting PSG, he stopped speaking to journalists after PSG beat Toulouse in the Trophee des Champions – a match between the winners of Ligue 1 and the French Cup previous season, just like the Community Shield in England.

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

“If I know what I want to do, 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 thing for him is PSG. He is at the center of the project. “I ask everyone to leave Kylian alone.”

Mbappe with the Trophee des Champions winner’s medal (Christian Liewig – Corbis/Getty Images)

Mbappe’s words were interpreted positively in the Spanish capital, where Real Madrid was already working on the details of the offer. When the proposal reached the player’s entourage in the following days, the club made it known that his salary (the offer was slightly higher than that of Vinicius Junior and Jude Bellingham) and the salary for the signing would make him the player highest paid.

Perez has been in regular contact with Mbappe throughout this process, which is unusual for the president of the Madrid club. Usually, it is his right-hand man, general manager Jose Angel Sanchez, who leads the negotiations. Mbappe told Perez that he was excited about the move. Meanwhile, Real Madrid have insisted through media briefings that they have no interest in the player. But the reality was quite different – how Atletico reported on numerous occasions.

Sanchez traveled to Paris before Real Madrid took part in the four-team Supercopa de Espana tournament, which was played in Saudi Arabia from January 10-14. He came back full of optimism: another good sign, given that he is usually cautious and very sober.

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

Perez during the Real Madrid match in January (Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

As reported by Atletico in mid-February, influential members of his entourage were unconvinced by the offer because it was lower than what he was making at PSG and he could gain from another potential suitor.

In talks with Perez, the president highlighted how signing for Real Madrid would take the player’s profile to another sporting and marketing level, which would help bring in further personal income. With a few exceptions like Vinicius Jr, the split of image rights at Real Madrid is usually 50/50 for the club and 50% for the player, although the share for Mbappe should be in his favor.

PSG sources still believe Mbappe is likely to leave. They remembered how already last summer he had decided not to accept the option to stay for an extra year and they knew that he had repeatedly expressed admiration for Real Madrid.

But these sources also explained that PSG felt “economically protected”. They described an agreement in principle with Mbappe that would see the club compensated financially if he leaves after his contract expires on June 30. They said it was a complex deal that covered several scenarios – including the France captain giving up some loyalty bonuses that he would otherwise have been entitled to. Even Mbappe himself spoke of “all parties protected” when he left, and discussions on this aspect are still ongoing.

It remains to be seen exactly what agreement, if any, Mbappe and PSG will make in this regard. But the French champions have always sought to underline that the attacker’s possible departure at the end of the 2023-24 season would not be a “free transfer” in their eyes.

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

Then came a key 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 were traveling with classified information. They had been told that Mbappe would inform PSG of his decision to leave at the end of the season.

The news did not become public until Thursday, but with the Real Madrid squad still in Germany, the club’s board informed manager Carlo Ancelotti. Without being told whether Mbappe had actually signed a contract or not, the Italian was made to understand that he could count on the striker in his squad for next season.

About 10 days later, Mbappe was spotted on Spanish soil, but in Barcelona, ​​not Madrid, enjoying a few days off. He said a source Atletico he had gone to the capital first to sign the contract.

Just this week, in early June, two more sources shared more information about the February talks. They said that was when Mbappe’s move was sealed.

The final stages of the negotiations took place in the utmost secrecy. Real Madrid tends to operate this way, but sources involved in the deal also said that Mbappe’s mother and agent, Fayza Lamari, asked for there to be no leaks, so that her son would be as protected as possible during his last months with PSG.

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

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

After being substituted at half-time of a goalless draw against Monaco, his first professional club, on March 1, Mbappe sat in the stands with his family rather than on the bench with his teammates. Watching the rest of the match, a few rows away, were members of the PSG board of directors, and reports said there had been a heated conversation between them and his mother. Real Madrid and the player’s camp believe that PSG penalized Mbappe by reducing his playing time. Sources at the French club believe it is false.

The end was approaching, but the fact that both PSG and Real were still in the running in the Champions League added to the strategy of total discretion. Three days after PSG were eliminated by Borussia Dortmund in the semi-final, Mbappe decided to leave the pitch in public.

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

Mbappe wanted to make the announcement before PSG’s final home match of the season on Sunday 12 May. 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 huge cheer to him.

The following Monday, Le Parisien newspaper reported that, before the match, Al-Khelaifi and Mbappe argued, with the former berating the latter for not mentioning him in his farewell video.

A PSG source strongly denied this had happened, adding that the agreement with Mbappe on the financial terms of his departure was almost done.

Later that Monday, Mbappe was named Ligue 1 Player of the Year for the fifth consecutive season. In his acceptance speech, he recognized Al-Khelaifi, who repeated in 2021, 2022 and 2023 that his star player will not leave PSG for free.

“The new chapter will be very exciting,” Mbappe said of his next move, 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. Real Madrid didn’t want anything, not even the biggest signing ever made, to distract attention from something so important and difficult to achieve.

Early on Monday, two days after the club won a record fifteenth European Cup/Champions League title, Atletico reported that the announcement would be made this week.

Now it’s finally finished and fans can’t wait to see Mbappe in that famous white kit.

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