Like his friend LeBron James in 2010, Kylian Mbappé has a big decision to make ahead of his contract expiring this summer. Reports suggest he will either stay at Paris Saint-Germain, join Real Madrid or move to Liverpool. Which team would suit him best, though?
The subject of Kylian Mbappé’s future is everywhere, though that has been the case for several years.
Arguably the world’s biggest football superstar has scored 27 goals for Monaco, 238 for Paris Saint-Germain, 46 for France, has won the World Cup and scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final, and that wasn’t even in the final he won. All that despite only turning 25 in December.
Mbappé is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season and surely has his choice of any club.
Recent reports suggest he’s narrowed his options to just three: staying at PSG, as he chose to do two years ago when his previous deal was close to expiring, heading to Real Madrid, or moving to Liverpool.
A lot of the chatter around Mbappé’s decision has focused on the finances. PSG seem likely to offer him the biggest pay packet in an attempt to convince him to stay; Madrid apparently can’t/won’t splash the cash as they used to in the Galáctico era; while Liverpool traditionally don’t hand out big contracts to new signings. If money is the deciding factor, he will almost certainly stay in Paris.
However, Mbappé insisted two years ago that his intentions were purely sporting: “We talked for months about the sporting project, hours on image rights and minutes on money. It lasted five minutes, it was very fast,” he said.
So, we thought we’d take him at his word and help Mr Mbappé make his decision from a sporting perspective. We’ve looked at PSG, Real Madrid and Liverpool to see which team might suit him best.
Mbappé has had a productive time in the French capital since joining from Monaco in 2017, scoring 238 goals and recording 90 assists in 285 games in all competitions. He has won five Ligue 1 titles, three Coupes de France, two Coupes de la Ligue and three Trophées des Champions.
You might therefore wonder why there’s any question of Mbappé leaving his hometown club having been so successful.
As well as the argument that he’s done as much as he can domestically in France, he has been Ligue 1’s top scorer in each of the last five seasons – equalling the league record set by Jean-Pierre Papin at Marseille between 1988 and 1992.
There’s also the fact PSG continue to fail where it arguably matters most to them and him, in the UEFA Champions League.
Mbappé burst onto the scene with Monaco when they won the Ligue 1 title in 2016-17, but it was their run to the Champions League semi-finals that season where he caught worldwide attention, scoring six goals in nine games. That helped earn him a nine-figure move to Paris, but now in his seventh season at the Parc des Princes, he has only reached the final four of the competition twice since.
PSG went out in the round of 16 in Mbappé’s first two seasons at the club, before reaching the final in his third. They lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich in Lisbon and dusted themselves down to reach the semi-finals in 2020-21, losing to Manchester City. They have gone out in the last 16 in the last two campaigns and stumbled through their group this season, needing to recover from a 4-1 hammering at Newcastle United to finish second behind Borussia Dortmund. They will face Real Sociedad when the Champions League resumes next month.
Club President Nasser Al-Khelaïfi recently made it clear how much he wants to keep Mbappé. “I am not trying to hide anything. I want Kylian Mbappé to stay at PSG. He’s the best player in the world and the best club for him is PSG,” Al-Khelaïfi told RMC Sport. “He is central to our project.”
The project Al-Khelaïfi referred to is how he will hope to convince Mbappé that the future is bright. “We have made mistakes and this is normal. Now we have a young team, with French players, and we are not in a hurry, this is for the long-term,” Al-Khelaïfi added.
But does Mbappé still suit this evolving PSG side? He seems to be thriving at the moment, scoring 19 goals in 17 Ligue 1 games already this season, with PSG eight points ahead of Nice at the top of the table.
Having a star-studded front three of Mbappé, Neymar and Lionel Messi in recent years didn’t get the club any closer to winning the Champions League, but this season the 2018 World Cup winner has been the focal point, playing through the middle of the attack mostly with Ousmane Dembélé to his right and Bradley Barcola to his left.
As you can see below, he has spent over 70% of his time in Ligue 1 down the middle this season, though he has said in the past he prefers to play with a number nine rather than being one (which we’ll come to later).
With other options in attack such as Randal Kolo Muani, Marco Asensio and Gonçalo Ramos, you could argue PSG are well-stocked enough to absorb Mbappé’s departure. It would require one or more to step up significantly though considering how important he is to Luis Enrique’s side.
Mbappé has scored 26 goals in all competitions this season, 19 more than any other PSG player, while only Dembélé (seven) and talented teenager Warren Zaïre-Emery (five) have more than his four assists. He has taken 126 shots, 76 more than any teammate, and only Dembélé (52) and Achraf Hakimi (42) have created more than his 41 chances from open play.
Mbappé has also attempted (134) and completed (71) more dribbles than any of his teammates. Indeed, only four players in Europe’s top five leagues have attempted more, while just four have completed more.
He is the figurehead of PSG and it would be a huge blow to the club to lose him, hence the reported eye-watering sums being offered to him to stay. Mbappé might just suit being the main man now that Neymar and Messi have departed, and he can look after his younger brother Ethan, who is starting to come through at the club.
Should he leave Paris, though, one persistent suitor will be the first on everyone’s minds.
In 2022, when Mbappé surprisingly chose to sign an extension with PSG instead of joining Real Madrid on a free transfer, the La Liga giants were humiliated.
They were all in on Mbappé, with fans pointing to the fact he had been pictured as a youngster in his bedroom with posters all over his walls of then Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo. They wanted Mbappé to be their new poster boy, but at the 11th hour, he chose to stay in France.
The damage caused led to suggestions they’d refuse to pursue Mbappé again in future. Two years is a long time in football, though.
Hurt feelings is one thing, but Real Madrid are in the business of winning trophies and being able to sign a generational talent on a free transfer is not an opportunity to be passed up.
Then again, recent reports suggested the club had set Mbappé a deadline of 15 January to make his decision, which he appears to have missed. It seems unlikely they’ll turn their nose up at him if he decides the Santiago Bernabéu is his destination in the next few months, though.
As for the player, if you want to win the Champions League then why not move to a club that has won it 14 times – twice as many as anyone else – and has taken home five of the last 10?
So, where would Mbappé fit in Carlo Ancelotti’s side?
Plenty of questions have been asked as to whether he could play alongside Vinícius Júnior, who also likes to play off the left. It’s an interesting conundrum.
As mentioned before, Mbappé does predominantly play as the central striker for PSG. However, when you look at his touch-zone map below, you can see that he seldom stays in the centre for too long. It therefore begs the question of whether he and Vinícius could share the same space, or could they work out a system where the Brazilian moves into the middle when Mbappé floats out left?
There is certainly a space in the frontline for Mbappé. With all due respect to Joselu, the 33-year-old wasn’t signed last summer to be Karim Benzema’s long-term replacement. The assumption was that the former Newcastle and Espanyol striker was merely a placeholder until Mbappé arrived; he also went towards their homegrown quota in the Champions League given he came through Madrid’s academy.
Back when Christophe Galtier was PSG boss, Mbappé indicated he was not particularly happy with his central role at club level, preferring how he played for France with Olivier Giroud. “I play differently [with France],” he said on international duty in September 2022. “I am tasked with other things here compared to with my club. I have a lot more freedom here. The coach knows that there is a number nine like Olivier who occupies the defence and I can drift around and move into space. In Paris, it’s different, there isn’t that. I am asked to be the pivot.”
Ancelotti does sometimes mix things up, occasionally playing Vinícius in a front two with Rodrygo. It worked to great effect in last Sunday’s 4-1 win against Barcelona in the Supercopa de España final, with the Brazilian pair scoring all four goals between them (Vinícius – 3, Rodrygo – 1). You could certainly see a scenario where Mbappé played alongside either one in a system with Jude Bellingham just behind them.
And that’s another key thing. For all the moves PSG are making to provide a strong, young team for Mbappé to lead, Madrid have done the same. In recent years they’ve future-proofed their midfield with the additions of Mbappé’s international teammates Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouameni, as well as the phenomenal Bellingham, while 18-year-old Turkish talent Arda Güler is getting rave reviews after recently making his debut.
Ancelotti might also argue he could do with Mbappé’s goals. Apart from Bellingham (17), no other Madrid player has even scored half the amount that Mbappé has in all competitions this season.
After signing his extension in 2022, Mbappé insisted: “I didn’t say no to Madrid, I said yes to France.”
Real Madrid will be hoping the player now says “sí” to Spain.
Looking at the Opta Player Radar comparison tool, it’s interesting to note that three of the four players in Europe’s top five leagues who profile most similarly to Mbappé this season are Vinícius, Rodrygo and Mohamed Salah.
Which brings us nicely to…
You should always do what your mum tells you, or at least that’s what Liverpool fans will argue.
Back in 2022, Mbappé revealed that he previously held talks with the Premier League side about a move because he loves his mum, who also happens to be his agent and supports Liverpool.
“I talked to Liverpool because it’s the favourite club of my mum. My mum loves Liverpool,” he told The Telegraph. “It’s a good club and we met them five years ago. When I was in Monaco I met them. It’s a big club.”
On the face of it, this seems to be the least likely of the three options for Mbappé. There’s his love of France and Paris, his supposed idolisation of Real Madrid, and as mentioned, the significant financial outlay required that Liverpool seem unlikely to match.
Then again, reports of their continued interest in the player as well as his admiration of them just will not go away.
Last summer, it would’ve seemed impossible. Liverpool were coming off a poor season that saw them dumped out of the Champions League last 16 by Real Madrid (6-2 on aggregate) and fail to qualify for this season’s competition after finishing fifth in the Premier League.
However, Jürgen Klopp’s men have recovered this season and lead the Premier League after 20 matches. They have lost just one game in the league all season and remain in all four competitions they entered in 2023-24.
When it comes to the Champions League, again, a move to Anfield would probably give Mbappé a greater chance of winning it than he has now. While Liverpool might not be taking part this season, they have a rich heritage in the competition, both historically and recently. Their six wins overall is twice as many as any other English club, and only Madrid (14) and AC Milan (7) have won more. They last lifted the trophy in 2019 and have reached three of the last six finals.
Where would Mbappé fit in Klopp’s team, though? When it comes to the attack, the German already has plenty of options.
Mohamed Salah has things locked down on the right of Liverpool’s front three, while Luis Díaz is usually seen on the left. Diogo Jota and Darwin Núñez can either play through the middle or on the left, while Cody Gakpo mostly appears centrally and has even covered in midfield this season. Do Liverpool even need Mbappé then?
Well, yes, because he’s Kylian Mbappé.
Mbappé’s predilection for drifting out to the left means playing alongside any one of Núñez, Jota or Gakpo could work similarly to how it would with Vinícius or currently does to an extent with Barcola at PSG. A fluid partnership, switching roles with regularity.
Liverpool already have a reliable goalscorer in Salah, who has 18 in all competitions this season. However, it has been suggested that the only way the club could afford Mbappé is if Salah – their highest earner – leaves in the summer. That would put the Frenchman under big pressure to immediately reproduce the numbers he does in Ligue 1. It would also mean Liverpool have to find another right-sided attacker as none of their other forward options have much, if any, experience on that side. We recently looked at that issue and how Liverpool would cope without Salah while he’s at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Interestingly, Mbappé and Salah have an almost identical shot conversion percentage this season in league games (Mbappé – 21.6%, Salah – 21.5%), while the Frenchman bests the Egyptian for non-penalty expected goals (xG) per 90 (Mbappé – 0.69, Salah – 0.49). He wouldn’t need to worry about having chances created for him, either. No team in the Premier League has had as many shots as Liverpool’s 380 and no-one can match their xG total of 44.91.
When Mbappé said in 2022 he liked playing with a number nine “who occupies the defence”, he had players like Núñez in mind. The former Benfica man does plenty of defender-occupying, even if his own shot conversion rate could do with improving (8.6%).
Klopp likes his forwards to work hard defensively too, which people might question when it comes to Mbappé. However, in Ligue 1 this season he has averaged 0.76 possession wins in the final third per 90, more than Núñez (0.56) and Jota (0.54) in the Premier League, and only just behind Salah (0.77).
Should Mbappé pay attention to such things (and why wouldn’t he?), Liverpool are also one place ahead of PSG in the Opta Power Rankings, though Real Madrid sit above both in second place.
In a recent interview with GQ magazine, Mbappé revealed he asks friend and basketball legend LeBron James for career advice. Given the Los Angeles Lakers star is a minority shareholder of Liverpool, perhaps that could be another thing in the club’s favour.
Wherever Mbappé is at the start of the 2024-25 season, he is sure to continue being one of the world’s most exciting players. All three clubs are at the start of new eras and Mbappé would be a worthy poster boy for any of them.
Either way, can it please be a long contract so we can finally have a season without endlessly discussing his future?