Which club could be Kylian Mbappe's next destination?

The PSG striker is now free to talk to other clubs or even sign a pre-contract agreement

By AP

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Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe. — AFP
Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe. — AFP

Published: Mon 1 Jan 2024, 5:40 PM

As the New Year begins, so does the countdown on Kylian Mbappe's future.

It promises to be a nervous start to 2024 for Paris Saint-Germain and their fans with speculation set to intensify about their prolific striker, one of only two players in history to score a hat trick in a World Cup final.

Mbappe began this season in a transfer standoff with his club after not taking up the option of a 12-month extension into 2025. It means that, starting January 1, he can openly talk to other clubs or even sign a pre-contract agreement with long-time suitor Real Madrid or Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Mbappe can do so because his contract runs out in June, when he can leave the defending French champions for free, having joined from Monaco —- initially on loan in 2017 — for 180 million euros (now $199 million).

The France star is PSG's all-time leading scorer with 233 goals despite only recently turning 25, and has already netted some 46 goals for Les Bleus.

But it has been frustrating at times for Mbappe at PSG, which failed to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League in the last two seasons and has scraped through to the last 16 in second place this season.

Despite having scored 21 goals in 22 games in all competitions so far this season, Mbappe failed to make his mark when PSG lost 4-1 at Newcastle and 2-1 at AC Milan.

His frustration has been seen in some of PSG's league games over the past three seasons, when bad defending and a lack of teamwork has led to soft goals being conceded.

Mbappe has said he wants to win the Ballon d'Or — the most prestigious individual prize — and the Champions League. But whether he can win either with PSG remains to be seen and, at age 25, the time could be right for him to leave PSG as he enters his peak years.

Madrid dreams

If he does leave PSG, Real Madrid will hope to finally get the striker they crave.

PSG rejected an offer of 180 million euros for Mbappé in 2021 and Madrid missed out a year later when Mbappe — amid frenzied speculation that Madrid would finally get him to join — signed a new deal with PSG in May 2022.

Mbappé held aloft the PSG jersey that day with 2025 on the back. But he was reportedly annoyed because the actual deal only took him to 2024 and, while good PR for the club, it was also seen as somewhat presumptuous to expect he would sign the extension given his world renown.

Mbappe has spoken about his affection for Madrid but, if he does not join this time, then the move may never happen. Coach Carlo Ancelotti has re-shaped the attack since Karim Benzema left and it is functioning well.

Jude Bellingham has made a stunning start to his career there since joining from Borussia Dortmund in a big-money deal, and the 20-year-old attacking midfielder has netted 17 goals in 21 games. Wearing his idol Zinedine Zidane's No. 5 jersey, Bellingham pulls the strings brilliantly behind forwards Vinícius Júnior — who has signed a new long-term deal — and Rodrygo.

Neither are as prolific as Mbappe but the Brazilians are younger — Vinícius is 23 and Rodrygo is 22 — and it raises the question whether Madrid really need the Frenchman.

Premier League an option

Mbappé's English is near-fluent and he's at ease conducting interviews after Champions League games with British broadcasters.

It would make his transition to the Premier League even easier, for his speed, strength on the ball, dribbling and lethal finishing are all attributes that would serve him well.

The six-time European champions are trying to hold onto prolific forward Mohamed Salah amid growing interest in the Egypt star from the even richer Saudi Arabian league.

Salah recently reached the 200-goal mark for Liverpool and enjoys hero-like status at Liverpool's famed Anfield stadium, but he is 31 and his prime years could almost be over.

Mbappe is entering his prime and appears the ideal replacement.

With no transfer fee to pay, any club signing Mbappe for free would have to play massive wages.

Chelsea can do that, and the west London club is languishing in mid-table, desperately in need of a goalscorer of Mbappe's caliber.

Whether Mbappe feels up to the challenge of rebuilding is doubtful, considering he could walk into any leading club.

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