“My fans, my team, MY HOME!!!” was the tag line to a short video posted on social media by Antoine Griezmann in 2018. In the clip, after months of speculation over a move to Barcelona, Griezmann announced he would be staying with Atlético Madrid after five years at the club. A year later, Griezmann joined Barcelona anyway.
Rejecting a institution as haughty and proud as FC Barcelona so publicly – Griezmann is seen laughing in the video – was less than tactful. Although stylistic issues were also a major factor, Griezmann struggled to settle socially when he eventually moved to the Nou Camp in 2019 with the squad unimpressed by his ‘documentary’, La Decision, a year earlier.
This weekend, after a year of intrigue and coy interviews, Kylian Mbappé will announce his own decision on whether he stays at PSG or moves to Real Madrid live on French TV. After asking to leave Paris for Madrid last summer, before his position started to soften over the season, reports have suggested Mbappé could now be set to stay at PSG. Real have reportedly become increasingly uneasy since news emerged of the 23-year-old’s plans to televise his announcement.
The French media have widely reported PSG’s latest offer of a mammoth, but short, two-year contract, including a gargantuan €100m signing bonus and a €50m salary. Meanwhile, Mbappé’s keenness to join Real at some point is no secret. It’s likely, if he were to stay put, he could yet join Madrid either next summer (forcing a sizeable transfer fee from Real – although he theoretically could have a clause inserted in his deal allowing him to leave next summer) or at the end of this new two-year contract.
Should that happen, after a season of constant coverage concerning his future, confirming he’d asked to leave PSG and repeated negotiations with Madrid, to so publicly reject Real could leave Mbappé with similar issues to Griezmann further down the line having exasperating football’s most sniffy and self-important club, and it’s players.
While Mbappé likely won’t have to fit in around a Lionel Messi type figure if he does eventually move to the Spanish capital, and his level is such that he’ll likely be able to impose himself on the team regardless, he risks polluting relationships with Florentino Pérez and the club’s hiercahy as well as the squad, introducing new obstacles to success in Spain. Although he became fast friends with Karim Benzema on France duty, Benzema will be 36 at the end of Mbappé’s new two-year PSG deal.
In theory, saying at PSG in the short term is a prudent move. Despite their spectacular run to the Champions League final, there’s been a sense of overachievement to Madrid’s season while they’ve relied heavily upon Benzema (34) and 36-year-old Luka Modrić. The next great Madrid team is will take some building. PSG, however, have funds to bolster their squad, a team built to win now and Lionel Messi, with whom Mbappé is starting to find cohesion. Despite their mental fragility, PSG are better placed over the next two seasons for European success. In two years time, Real’s team could look very different.
The decision to stay is the right one, but La Decision could again prove to be a mistake.