Neymar has a new sidekick at Paris Saint-Germain. The newest member of PSG is 18-year-old France star Kylian Mbappe, who has joined from reigning Ligue 1 champions AS Monaco.
PSG has taken Mbappe on an initial loan and will reportedly pay €180 million to keep Mbappe in Paris at the end of the season. If the permanent transfer happened today, it would be the second-largest transfer fee ever paid behind what they spent for Neymar three weeks ago. Mbappe will reportedly see his wages increase ninefold.
Mbappe has played top flight soccer for only a year, but he’s already established himself as one of the most talented players of his generation. He scored 26 goals in 44 appearances for Monaco last season and was praised not just for his goals, athleticism and technical ability, but for his movement off the ball as well.
He’s played on the wing and up top, with a partner and without, so he’ll likely be able to adapt to whatever role PSG manager Unai Emery wants him to play.
Mbappe hinted at the move himself two weeks ago with emojis, as all good teenagers do:
Like many other situations where players let their fathers manage their careers, Mbappe’s dad is being criticized for his handling of the situation. Mbappe preferred to play for Real Madrid, according to one report, but his father implored him to take PSG’s larger salary offer and convinced Monaco to sell to a league rival. Real Madrid can afford to pay anyone’s salary but didn’t want to commit €40 million-plus in wages to a relatively unproven teenager.
When Neymar moved to PSG, we wrote that complaints about potential Financial Fair Play violations were overblown. That’s still the case with Mbappe’s transfer, but only because of the way it’s structured. PSG has differed the fee until next season, allowing them to spread out their transfer spending. While the club clearly doesn’t take potential FFP punishments that seriously, they’re not blatantly disregarding the rules and have decided to spread out their risk a bit.
Why would Monaco help PSG?
It seems silly, doesn’t it? Reigning Ligue 1 champions AS Monaco helping their only real rivals circumvent FFP and take their most talented player? On the surface, yes, but delaying the transfer makes financial sense for Monaco too.
Monaco has already sold star players Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko for in excess of €150 million. They’ve also collected fees for six other players who were on the fringes of their squad or out on loan. And Monaco is likely to lose more players, with Thomas Lemar and Fabinho attracting huge bids from top clubs.
Monaco doesn’t need the money from Mbappe’s transfer now, neither for reinvestment in their squad nor for FFP purposes. They have more than they could ever hope to spend. It makes sense for them to spread out their income over time, rather than raking in €400-plus million in one transfer window.
Wait, €180 million for a teenager with one year of experience?
Seems outrageous, doesn’t it? But that’s how good Mbappe was last season — the biggest teams in the world are as sure as one can possibly be about an 18-year-old who will be one of the best players on earth.
It’ll be two or three years before we have any idea of whether or not Mbappe was worth the fee. He could never get better than he is right now, in which case PSG overpaid by roughly quadruple what would have been reasonable. Or he could become the best player on the planet, in which case €180 million would look like a value buy.
When someone asks if this fee is reasonable, the only intellectually honest answer is “we don’t know.”
The market should get moving now
Mbappe was arguably the most coveted superstar on the market this summer, with Manchester City, Arsenal, and Barcelona registering interest alongside Real Madrid. Mbappe moving to PSG gives those teams reason to get moving on their secondary plans.
Alexis Sanchez and Phillipe Coutinho are among the other wide forwards reportedly looking for moves this summer, and their potential suitors now have reason to move more quickly.