PResidential Candidate was not the title Kylian Mbappé was aiming for at the start of the campaign. However, some of those uninspired by the vote in last month’s French presidential election crossed out the names Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen to write “Mbappé” on their ballots instead. With his modest smile, tailored suit and casual waves to fans outside the Parc des Princes, there was something presidential about Mbappé’s media speech after his shock signing of a new three-year contract at PSG. The new power that comes with it could match his appearance as President.
Mbappé’s decision to remain at PSG, an imaginative situation a few months ago, marks the start of sweeping changes within the club. Leonardo, the sporting director, has been eliminated for the second time and coach Mauricio Pochettino is expected to follow suit. Big chunks of an unwieldy squad Leonardo has struggled with are also expected to finally be sold, while PSG’s prolific but under-used academy could finally gain real prominence.
Alongside the reportedly gigantic €100m signing bonus and €50m salary, Mbappé is expected to play a significant role in PSG’s broader decision-making process. His influence is already shaping the club. The appointment of Luís Campos as sporting director – a friend of Mbappé’s from his Monaco days – was born out of contract talks between Mbappé and PSG. The player’s continued presence influenced Campos’ acceptance.
Pochettino’s position, meanwhile, has improved thanks to Mbappé, who spoke of his “great relationship” with the manager. That directly contradicts the club’s position under Leonardo, who have repeatedly offered Zinedine Zidane Pochettino’s job, but Pochettino could still see the last year of his contract. Although he turned down the proposal, Mbappé’s oversight could extend to transfers. According to L’Équipe, he has agreed to a potential sale of Neymar this summer.
While traditionalists will shy away from a player with such political power, Mbappé’s new status represents an interesting footballing experiment. Although the concessions to Mbappé came primarily out of desperation, as PSG feared giving what might be the world’s best player to a major rival for free lose, such strength could make sense for modern football under the right circumstances.
Having handled the relentless coverage of his future with aplomb and humor while his performances have only improved, Mbappé’s reputation has grown both inside and outside PSG. Giving footballers too much clout at clubs could cause problems – given their ego, inexperience and the fact that transfer decisions directly affect their own future and that too much power could undermine the manager’s authority – but there is little doubt about Mbappé’s maturity , intellect and now , dedication.
He is the club’s highest paid, most valuable and most influential component. PSG could argue that nobody is more crucial to their success than Mbappé, so why not at least consult him on important decisions? PSG’s established hierarchy has barely become a bastion of competence despite decades of trying, amid constant power struggles between different coaches, sporting directors and executives, and a failed transfer policy. While the club have succumbed to the whims of other players, it would be a first for decision-making power.
Mbappé’s decision to remain at PSG could prove to be shattering for the landscape of European football. Despite some strong performances in European competitions this season, quality at the top of La Liga is declining. Previously, it was the league that attracted the world’s best talent, but after the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Spanish football has also missed out on the two leading strikers of this generation, with Mbappé staying in Paris and Erling Haaland being chased by Madrid was and Barcelona, signing for Manchester City.
While the Premier League’s financial clout may have extended its lead in terms of interest, prestige, resources and player-for-player quality (though perhaps not team-by-team), the other four of the traditional big five leagues operate within these areas together . The interest generated by Mbappé’s continued presence in Ligue 1 helps with the league’s status and potentially its financial competitiveness. French President Emmanuel Macron was well aware of this, speaking repeatedly to Mbappé as he reflected on his decisions. Both Macron and the club relied heavily on Mbappé’s alleged “responsibility” towards France and Ligue 1. “I heard the call of home and the capital,” Mbappé explained.
The nature of Mbappé’s decision could have ramifications both personal and continental. Mbappé, who idolized Cristiano Ronaldo as a youngster, clearly feels drawn to football’s greatest institution. He’s still only 23 years old so a move to Madrid probably remains a goal at some point. His talent would undoubtedly outweigh anything else, but Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez is a proud champion of an even prouder club. Mbappé called him personally to explain his decision to stay, but Pérez is seething and may need some time to cool off.
After months of Mbappé being close that Mbappé would join, reportedly even planning an unveiling and announcing other potential signings, Spanish football was disheartened and furious at Mbappé’s change of heart. If Mbappé joins Madrid at the end of this three-year deal or even before, to pay a huge transfer fee, he could face resistance.
Antoine Griezmann publicly disliked Barcelona over his La Decision documentary in 2018 before joining a year later. The Frenchman didn’t get a warm welcome from his new, recently sacked team-mates and fans. Mbappé could face a similar opinion from Madrid fans and players should he eventually move to Spain.
For now, his change of heart is a major political triumph for PSG and the club’s Qatari owners in particular. The fact that the world’s best player – despite a local already playing for them – refusing a move to Spain despite reports that Real Madrid have made a comparable, perhaps even slightly better, financial offer shows that PSG are in good standing now. They will argue that this is tangible proof of PSG becoming one of the biggest sports brands in the world, a stated goal when they took over the club a decade ago.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi is the PSG president and carries the financial clout, but Mbappé could soon become the epicenter of power at the Parc des Princes. If a vote were to take place on who could be PSG’s true leader, the names Al-Khelaifi, Pochettino and Campos would not need to be crossed out. Mbappé would be the only option.