I think it’s fairly safe that, man-for-man, PSG are a better team than Real Madrid today, but Kylian Mbappe still stands a better chance of winning the Champions League and a Balon D’Or if he makes the move to Real Madrid this summer.
Mbappe and Real Madrid have history. The Frenchman actually turned Real Madrid down in 2014 and did so again in 2017, at the age of 19. And even though Mbappe was still an emerging star and would have been a risk to buy at the price of €145 million, following his breakthrough season at Monaco, he has gone on to prove himself to be a world-class footballer with the potential to be the best player of his generation.
Since departing with a Ligue 1 winners medal, Mbappe has consistently found himself on the scoresheet, scoring 131 goals and assisting a further 79 in 171 appearances for PSG in the league and an additional 21 goals and 17 assists in 36 Champions League appearances. He’s won 11 trophies with PSG in his short career there and has been the top scorer in the league every season while winning a World Cup with France in between… He’s pretty much done it all… and now has the opportunity to step into the boots of his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo.
At club level, there is one trophy that has eluded Mbappe… the UEFA Champions League. Real Madrid were on a run of three in a row when he turned them down, but after Ronaldo’s departure, which coincided with Mbappe’s move to PSG, Madrid have declined while PSG have become a bona fide European giant. But Cristiano Ronaldo won his first Champions League title at the age of 24 and Lionel Messi won it for the first time at the age of 18.
At 22, Mbappe needs a winner’s medal, and if he does, he can become a candidate in the debate about the greatest player of all time. With an already overflowing trophy cabinet, it would be the final piece in the puzzle for Mbappe and, if he can continue scoring at his current rate in a more competitive league like La Liga, he’d certainly be the greatest of his generation.
Mbappe is being heavily linked with a move to Madrid this summer, with the club having stayed out of the transfer market completely, in terms of incoming players, last summer. It was largely a consequence of the revenues losses from the Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that the Santiago Bernabeau is undergoing a massive facelift. Yet, there’s always been a feeling that Florentino Perez has just been building up a huge transfer kitty to splash on the French superstar. And with Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos, Isco, Marcelo and even Eden Hazard all potentially on their way out of the club this summer, it will free up a lot of space on Real Madrid’s wage bill… there will surely be enough financial resources to convince both PSG to sell and Mbappe to join the club.
On the other hand, Zinedine Zidane, who was a bargaining chip for the Spanish club, has now departed the club. But a newly struck friendship with Karim Benzema may be a big factor in where Mbappe’s future lies. And let’s not forget, Real Madrid’s new coach, Carlo Ancelotti, has won the Champions League three times as a manager (including Real Madrid’s famous La Decima in 2014), in addition to two European Cups as a player. Not only that, but Madrid have a squad that was built around a 4-3-3 formation which Ancelotti is a master of and used to create the devastating BBC (Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo) trio that put on some of the finest displays of attacking football that many of us have ever seen.
At Madrid, Mbappe could grow into the player that Cristiano Ronaldo evolved into after landing in Madrid back in 2009. He could be the focal point of a team that, despite a reliance on their “old guard” has the potential to become Europe’s greatest team. And even if PSG do break their Champions League duck, Mbappe would likely be standing in Neymar’s shadow.
In terms of quality, PSG do appear to be a more powerful force than Real Madrid at the moment. But, based on results, both teams were knocked out of Europe at the semi-final stage and finished second in their respective leagues. A French Cup doesn’t hide the fact that PSG’s season was a bit of a failure, despite the promising signs they were showing after the midpoint of the season. Madrid will be equally disappointed with their campaign, but can at least take solace in the fact that they were plagued by injuries throughout the season. Madrid’s squad showed incredible depth this season, with Zidane naming a squad with just four defenders during the latter stages of the campaign.
Benzema, Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Raphael Varane, and Sergio Ramos are the only starters from Real Madrid’s Champions League ‘Threepeat’ that are still key members of the squad. With the former three all above the age of 30, while Varane and Ramos could leave the club in the summer, Real Madrid’s squad could soon have nobody from that golden era within a few short years. Mbappe has the chance not only to play in front of what continues to be one of the best midfield tridents in the game but to play with a striker that has become an even better player in spite of Madrid’s decimated attack. Following the departure of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale’s nightmare, Eden Hazard’s poor fitness, Marco Asensio’s injury-disrupted progression (or lack thereof), and the growing pains that Vinicius and Rodrygo have been facing, Benzema has been the only reliable figure in front of goal for three seasons now, but the Frenchman is familiar with playing a secondary role in the attack, having played nine seasons as Ronaldo’s “servant”. Mbappe would not be contending with Neymar for the starring role, he would be the leader in attack. And the PSG team he leaves behind has a questionable defense. Madrid’s, on the other hand, is rock solid. Even with Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, and Dani Carvajal out for massive stretches this season, Thibaut Courtois has been as unbeatable as ever in front of goal, while Ferland Mendy, Nacho, Eder Militao, and Lucas Vasquez (surprisingly enough), playing huge roles in a great season, defensively, for the La Liga runners-up. Madrid’s defense let in just 28 goals this season and it was their failures in attack that cost them the title. When Benzema was marked out of the game, Zidane’s men had no answers.
So Mbappe has the opportunity to play alongside the legends that remain from Madrid’s remarkable team that he could have joined four years ago, all of whom he can gain valuable experience from, and he can also be the face of a new generation of players at Real Madrid that looks incredibly promising. Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo, Martin Odegaard, Renier Jesus, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy, Take Kubo, Brahim Diaz, as well as Antonio Blanco and Miguel Gutierez, who stepped up with aplomb from Castilla last season, and even the underrated Andriy Lunin all have the potential to be world-beaters, who Mbappe could be part of a brand new generation of European title winners, as was the case when Ancellotti last took over at the club in 2014. Who wouldn’t be excited by an attacking trident of Mbappe, Benzema, and Vinicius next season, if the Brazilian prodigy manages to step up next season?
Mbappe has the opportunity to be a Balon D’Or winner and to take over the mantle from his idol Cristiano Ronaldo, but he’s facing some stiff competition from Erling Haaland… and the Norwegian is younger, so Mbappe needs to make the move sooner rather than later. Otherwise he’ll be banking on PSG going all the way in the Champions League… which could cost him his prime years and yield no fruit.
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What do you think? Should Kylian Mbappe join Real Madrid to take his career to the next level?