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After All That, Kylian Mbappé Will Stay At Paris Saint-Germain

Kylian Mbappé laughs while watching PSG from a skybox
Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images

Months after Kylian Mbappé publicly revealed his intention to let his Paris Saint-Germain contract expire next summer, and Paris Saint-Germain's ownership responded by denouncing him as a traitor, banning him from the team, and demanding he accept an immediate transfer, the two sides have reached a detente. Mbappé will negotiate a contract extension, with release clause, that will keep him in Paris for at least this season, and has rejoined the first team.

As for what accounts for the sudden reversal, reports have PSG's acquisition of Ousmane Dembélé, a friend of Mbappé's from the France men's national team, as a contributing factor. The apparently imminent departure from PSG of Neymar Jr., the costar Mbappé reportedly (as well as visibly) got fed up with over the past couple seasons, certainly also contributed. Real Madrid suffering two catastrophic knee injuries to key players (goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and defender Éder Militão) in the past week, likely erasing any faint hope the club could spend big on a striker between now and the end of the month, can't have helped Mbappé's odds of leaving. But the biggest factor, by far, is just that this is always where things were headed.

For all the drama—for all PSG's tantrums and all the touchdown dancing by Real Madrid fans certain Mbappé was theirs at last—a temporary renewal of vows was always the likeliest outcome, if also the most boring. Anybody who lived through essentially this exact same sequence of events in the summer of 2022 might have said so. PSG had no real leverage to force Mbappé out of the club this summer, just a threat to hold him out of games that amounted to the club holding a knife to its own neck. And Real Madrid, in shaky financial shape and having already spent over €100 million this summer on midfielder Jude Bellingham, couldn't dream of paying the kind of galáctico-grade transfer fee PSG would demand for Mbappé—and wouldn't consider it anyway, knowing Mbappé might have been available on a free transfer next summer.

This way both of the actual parties to this (so, not including Real Madrid) get more-or-less what they want, if perhaps less smoothly than they might have wanted it. Mbappé gets more money this season from PSG, unrivaled supremacy within the club (barring some unexpected change in the Neymar situation), and very likely a handshake agreement that if he can arrange a galáctico transfer to Madrid next summer, PSG will accept it. PSG gets another season of Mbappé, and renewed assurance that, if and when Mbappé leaves, the club can make money off of his departure. And PSG gets to save some face in a summer in which it already absorbed the embarrassment of Lionel Messi shrugging off the club's public pressure and leaving on a free transfer to Inter Miami.

The losers here are Real Madrid fans: This is at least the second time just in the past three years that Mbappé has used the Spanish club—his reported desire to play there, and Real Madrid's undisguised lust to bring him aboard—as a theatrical prop to extract more money from PSG. It doesn't cost Los Blancos materially, but it's a humiliation nonetheless. The club itself more-or-less kept its cool throughout this farce, but its fans and attendant media absolutely did not; as of this morning they've already shifted into sour-grapes we never wanted him anyway! mode, a performance that will only get funnier next summer, when we go through all of this all over again.

The other loser is, uh, the world. This arrangement, after all, keeps Mbappé in Ligue 1—a perfectly fine and fun league that can't come close to bringing the best out of him and that isn't competitive enough to demand attention outside of France—for yet another season of his youth that he otherwise could have spent measuring himself against the Premier League or fighting for El Clasico victories. That stinks!

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