With Mbappé staying, PSG lays first brick in rebuilding

PARIS, 23 May: Kylian Mbappé’s decision to reject Real Madrid and commit to Paris Saint-Germain for three more seasons marks the start of a large rebuilding project at the French league champion.
Since cash-rich Qatari investors took over in 2011, PSG has been a dominant force in France but has consistently failed to replicate that success on the European stage despite spending massive amounts on star players.
Club officials now hope that Mbappé decision to snub the Spanish giants will finally lead to the conquest of club soccer’s biggest trophy, the Champions League.
In addition to the colossal sums of money reportedly promised to the 23-year-old forward — financial terms of Mbappé’s new deal have not been disclosed — the France star has received guarantees that things will change in a big way, with a new coach and a new sporting director likely to be appointed in the coming days or weeks.
“The project has changed,” Mbappé told a news conference on Monday. “The club wants to change a lot of things on the sports side, so it gives me this desire to continue. My story here is not over.”
New players will also join this summer to help finalize a project that will be centered around the World Cup-winning forward. PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said last week that Mbappé will become “the cornerstone of the club’s project for the years to come, both on and off the pitch,” but the striker is adamant he has not requested the full powers.
“I am a soccer player, well anchored in a collective,” Mbappé said. “Even if, of course, players have different status in a team. I remain a soccer player, and I will not go beyond this role.”
Sitting next to his star player, Al-Khelaifi did not give many details about PSG’s reorganization but acknowledged that he promised to sign new players if Mbappé stayed.
“Because he really deserves it,” Al-Khelaifi said, adding that money was not crucial in convincing Mbappé to reject Madrid’s offer and extend his glitzy partnership with Neymar and Lionel Messi in the French capital city.
“The most important thing for Kylian was the sporting project,” he said, insisting that clubs in Spain were in a position to offer more money than PSG.
The first collateral victim of Mbappé’s prolonged stay in the French capital has been sports director Leonardo. The former Brazil international, who returned to the club three years ago, was fired over the weekend following intense discussions.
According to L’Equipe newspaper, his departure was crucial in the negotiations with Mbappé, who pushed for an overhaul of the hierarchy following PSG’s exit in the last 16 of the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid in March.
Luis Campos has been tipped as a replacement for Leonardo. The Portuguese is a renowned talent scout with connections in Europe and South America and has been enjoying an excellent relationship with Mbappé and his family. Campos, who previously worked at Lille and Monaco, had played an influential role when Mbappé signed his first professional deal with the Principality side in 2016.
One thing that won’t immediately change at PSG, though, is its habit of frequently changing coaches. Mauricio Pochettino, who sealed PSG’s record-equaling 10th league title but could not avoid another Champions league failure, is unsure about his future at the helm of the Parisian team amid reports in the French media that he will be replaced soon. Speculation over the potential appointment of Zinedine Zidane has been growing in recent days.
To strengthen their squad, PSG officials have also discussed with Mbappé the prospect of recruiting a versatile fullback and several new midfielders. L’Équipe reported Monday that PSG has made a priority of signing Monaco’s Aurélien Tchouaméni, with Ousmane Dembélé also targeted.
Mbappé joined PSG from Monaco in 2017 when he was still a teenager. He has already scored 171 goals in just 217 appearances for PSG and won three consecutive player of the season awards, topping the French scoring charts each of the last four seasons.
Mbappé has often said that playing for Madrid was his childhood dream, and the Frenchman did not rule out making the move at a later stage in his career.
“I am really focused on this new contract, what will happen in the future, I don’t know,” he said. (PTI)