After three years of saving up for him, Real Madrid believe they can afford their £137million bid for Kylian Mbappe.
But after £257m was wiped off their revenue by the pandemic it still looks rash in the extreme that, just months after pleading poverty as they plotted a breakaway European Super League, they pay for a player who will be able to negotiate as a free agent in just four months.
It was April this year when Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said that football would be dead without a new competition that he and eleven other clubs would run and be life members of.
Real Madrid have stepped up their pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe
Real chief Florentino Perez (L) will be negotiating with PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi (R)
That dramatic claim was always a gross exaggeration but the pandemic did ravage Madrid’s accounts and they are struggling to cope with the unlimited wealth of club’s financed by energy-rich nation states.
So why give them money when patience will deliver Mbappe without a transfer fee?
That’s the contradiction that has left Real Madrid supporters wondering if their club is posturing ahead of the capture of Mbappe on a free next summer, or is really serious about going into debt for someone Perez has always believed would have the same effect on and off the pitch at the Bernabeu as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Madrid have barely made a net spend over the last few seasons. This summer they have cashed in on Martin Odegaard to Arsenal and Raphael Varane to Manchester United as well as avoiding the salary burden of keeping Sergio Ramos.
Last summer they sold Sergio Reguilon and Achraf Hakimi as they went through their first close season window without a single signing for the first time in 40 years.
They are not in the dire situation Barcelona find themselves in and are under none of the pressure that LaLiga applied to Barcelona to slash their wage bill, leading to them not being able to keep Lionel Messi.
But they have still been hit by the pandemic’s huge effect on football tourism and match day revenue. The players took a 15 per cent pay cut last season and are currently negotiating individually to defer payments this campaign. So why pay PSG when they don’t have to?
This SofaScore graphic shows Mbappe’s incredible stats at PSG since he joined them in 2017
Ex-Real star Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked to PSG which could impact Mbappe’s future
Perez has always believed some players pay for themselves. It’s an exaggerated theory. No matter how many Lionel Messi shirts PSG sell it will not pay his wages. And for every fan buying the number 30, many will do so instead of buying another number. All the same the increased revenue from merchandising and sponsorship does off-set part of the cost of a big signing.
It’s been suggested in Madrid that Perez wants Mbappe for the grand reopening of the Santiago Bernabeu next month.
But although Madrid are likely to be allowed fans back in their arena for the visit of Celta Vigo on September 11, only 40,000 will be allowed in because of ongoing Covid restrictions and the unfinished stadium remains a building site and will do all season.
Would it not have greater impact if the ground, due to be finished in December 2022, hosts Mbappe’s unveiling next summer when it will nearly be complete?
There is a sense in Madrid that the club have made this offer knowing how things will pan-out from here on.
Carlo Ancelotti (L) could be managing Mbappe instead of Mauricio Pochettino (R)
Either they were sure it would be rejected in which case they look good for trying and patience will be granted as they wait to bring him in next season. Or they are aware that the Qatari-owned club will reject the first offer but ultimately give in to a superior bid.
It was reported on Wednesday morning that PSG ‘will consider selling Mbappe in a sensational transfer to Real as they name their price at £171m’.
Second guessing PSG’s owners is difficult. Do they really want to win the Champions League? If so selling Mbappe lessens their chances and strengthens one of their direct rivals.
Or is the real obsession to become the club everyone talks about? If that’s the priority then getting a huge fee for a player who only has a year left and making another huge signing will achieve the same aim.
Perez has always believed Mbappe would have the same effect on and off the pitch as Ronaldo
Where would Mbappe’s potential £171m move rank in the biggest transfers of all time?
1. Neymar: £198m – Joined PSG from Barcelona
2. Kylian Mbappe: £171m – Potential fee to join Real Madrid from PSG
3. Mbappe: £166m – Joined PSG from Monaco
4. Philippe Coutinho: £145m – Joined Barcelona from Liverpool
5. Joao Felix: £114m – Joined Atletico Madrid from Benfica
6. Antoine Griezmann: £108m – Joined Barcelona from Atletico Madrid
7. Jack Grealish: £100m – Joined Manchester City from Aston Villa
They have laughed in the face of financial fair play and whatever Madrid pay, around £30m of it will go to Monaco, so money is unlikely to drive Qatar Sports Investment’s decision.
The third principal actor in the soap opera is Mbappe. He turned up for training this morning at 10.30am sharp and team-mates say privately he has no intention of publicly declaring that he wants to join Madrid this summer.
Turning down three new contract offers – the last of which for £31m net a season – have already put him on the wrong side of many PSG fans.
If he spoke publicly about Madrid and then the deal didn’t happen this season would be hugely uncomfortable for him.
It’s clear he wants to become the new Ronaldo. He had a picture of him on his wall as a kid and moving to Madrid would be emulating Cristiano who was presented to a full Santiago Bernabeu in July 2009.
Curiously, that deal was done just days after Madrid went public on the fact that they were negotiating with Manchester United.
On Tuesday night the club was also very keen to confirm they had bid for Mbappe.
This has all been very public – the coming hours will reveal if it’s been for the gallery or for real.