Why a Kylian Mbappe ‘free transfer’ would actually cost millions

Kylian Mbappe gestures after scoring PSG's fifth goal in the French Cup tie with US Revel

This week has been a case study in the circus that can surround Kylian Mbappé and his future. Reports have claimed that he has rejected an offer from Real Madrid, that he has agreed to join them after all, that the Spanish giants are frustrated at him setting a deadline to decide on a move and, finally, that the Bernabéu hierarchy have given up on trying to find out whether he will agree to a transfer and are now targeting Erling Haaland.

The truth is, unless he is not being fully truthful, that Mbappé has not yet made up his mind over his future and whether we are moving into the final months of his career with Paris St-Germain. Telegraph Sport understands that was communicated directly to Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the PSG president, in a meeting before the club’s victory in the Champions Trophy – the equivalent of the English Community Shield – over Toulouse last Wednesday.

Afterwards, Mbappé gave an interview reiterating that point and although he caused some irritation at PSG, as it detracted from the celebrations of a first trophy under new coach Luis Enrique, it was consistent. There was then a statement on Monday, attributed to his advisers, that “there is no agreement around Kylian’s future”.

Extraordinarily, the 25-year-old superstar is currently out of contract at the end of this season and can not only walk away for free as things stand, but is able to sign a pre-contract deal this month with a club outside of France.

Hence the growing pressure from Spain – which is undoubtedly there. Despite Mbappé having not yet decided, there is a feeling, from several parties involved in what will be a humongous deal, that the captain of France is close to finalising his future. It could even be days away. While he can sign for ‘free’, if he leaves, it will be an incredibly expensive contract with sources suggesting that Mbappé expects a salary of €75 million a year (£64.5 million) after tax. That equates to £1.24 million a week.

Because there is no transfer fee, there will also be the further expectation of a significant signing-on fee and probably not least because Mbappé will forego a huge payment – said to be worth “tens and tens of millions of euros” by one source – if he decides to leave PSG.

That followed an agreement reached last summer with the club when Mbappé tried to force his way out, with a letter backdated to June 2022, stating he had no intention of taking up the option of a further year on his contract.

It caused a huge row and a crisis at PSG with Mbappé banished to train with the “loft” – the name in France given to the players who are surplus to requirements and no longer part of the first-team squad. After talks, PSG did not back down and although Mbappé was reintegrated it was not before he offered to give up a vast amount of money due to him in so-called loyalty bonuses if he did eventually leave.

It is understood that a new deal is on the table at PSG, who signed Mbappé from Monaco in 2018, initially on loan but then for a fee of €180 million (£154.9 million), and obviously the French giants want their star player to stay. But there is a difference now. PSG are no longer desperate for Mbappé and are said to be “calm and relaxed” about his future partly because they have “both financially and in sporting terms insulated themselves” if he goes.

Kylian Mbappe of PSG holding the Champions Trophy
Mbappe has won a host of honours at PSG including five league titles, three French cups and, most recently, a third Champions Trophy - Getty Images/Jean Catuffe

What does that mean? PSG believe they will not lose out financially even though they would have expected a fee of at least €120 million (£103.2 million) if there was – as was initially announced – a contract until June 30, 2025 and not just an option for another year, as it later transpired. This gives an indication of just how much money Mbappé would lose out on in bonuses should he go. It means if he leaves on a free transfer it will not really be for free.

This is also a new PSG with Enrique as coach and a largely French and younger – and therefore less expensive – team emerging where 17-year-old Warren Zaïre-Emery is developing into the fresh star. Massive contracts involving Lionel Messi and Neymar have gone and older players such as Sergio Ramos and Marco Verratti have left. PSG suddenly have the second-youngest squad in Ligue 1.

PSG are rebuilding with less ‘bling-bling’

PSG obviously want Mbappé to be the leading part of their new-look squad – and why wouldn’t they? – but it is less of a disaster now if he is not there. PSG are rebuilding, with not so much of an obsession about winning the Champions League, and there is certainly less power with the players than in the past and also less “bling-bling” as one source put it.

So what will happen? There is a quiet confidence that Mbappé might just stay after all. It is not just PSG who have changed but also Real Madrid and sources suggest not only are the Spanish club less desperate to sign him but are not prepared to pay the financial package they had previously offered and that is still probably available at PSG.

Madrid have changed as a team and not least with the incredible impact Jude Bellingham has made. Given the belief that Mbappé has strung the club along in the past with several indications he would sign, there is less of a warm feeling towards him from the fans and the local media. There have even been some suggestions that it is Mbappé who now needs to make the running for the transfer.

Moving to Madrid still represents the most likely outcome if he leaves. Where else could he go? Obviously there will be focus on the Premier League as Mbappé made it clear he had no interest in the Saudi Pro League when PSG gave Al-Hilal permission to speak to him after offering a world record £260 million last summer.

Mbappé told Telegraph Sport in May 2022 when he renewed with PSG that he had held talks with Liverpool in the past. There is genuine affection for the Merseyside club, driven by his mother Fayza Lamari, who is also his adviser and a fan of the club. But if there was any chance of a deal it would take an awful lot of working parts to connect and probably, not least, the departure of Mohamed Salah to Saudi Arabia to help finance it. Manchester City have always played down any Mbappé link.

So there is no indication, at present, that any club beyond PSG or Real Madrid will sign Mbappé. His next contract, given his age, will clearly be his most significant one and hopefully we will know soon which way this saga will end.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.