The summer’s biggest soccer soap opera may have just begun.
One day after news broke that Kylian Mbappé, the French star of Paris St.-Germain, had told the club via letter that he would not extend his contract beyond 2024, Mbappé broke his silence.
In a statement and on social media, Mbappé said his decision not to extend his contract had been communicated to P.S.G. last summer, a declaration that was immediately rejected by the club. And on social media, Mbappé denied a French newspaper report that he wants to join Real Madrid this summer, calling any such suggestion “lies.”
He was, he wrote on Twitter, “very happy” at the club.
By then, however, the player and its star were engaged in a contentious, and very public, back and forth.
P.S.G. officials had privately expressed shock and surprise on Monday after receiving the letter informing them that Mbappé would leave the club next summer, which had been leaked to French news media before it arrived at the club’s offices. The team believed it had been making progress in negotiations over a new multiyear contract, according to an executive familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to discuss the sensitive talks publicly.
But in a statement sent to France’s national news agency on behalf of Mbappé, the player’s representatives denied there had been any negotiation on a contract extension and said the letter was merely a written confirmation of what Mbappé had told the club a year ago, less than two months after signing his current nine-figure deal. The club knew then, Mbappé’s side said, that he would not be taking up his option to remain with the team for a third year, despite holding up a team jersey with the year “2025” printed on the back at his signing ceremony.
The club made no public statements about Mbappé or his plans on Monday. But after his claim that he had never discussed renewing his contract, it issued a curt response. “It is emphatically untrue to say Mbappé’s team have not been involved in renewal discussions,” a club spokesman said.
The rising divide between Mbappé, one of the world’s most famous athletes, and the club, one of the richest teams in European soccer, could lead to an endgame P.S.G. had hoped to avoid: Mbappé’s exit from Paris, his hometown, perhaps as soon as this summer.
But as was the case during a similar period of brinkmanship last summer, the possibility remains that player and club could still reconcile — but only if he agrees to change his stance and sign a contract extension.
Mbappé’s statement said his intention was to stay in Paris for the final year of his current contract before moving on. But the statement also raised unanswered questions, including why the letter had been signed and dated July 15, 2022, the day he said he informed the club verbally of his intentions, but only delivered to the club this week.
It also ensured that Mbappé’s club status will be the talk of soccer for the second straight summer.
Last year, it required the personal intervention of the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, to finally persuade Mbappé to commit to at least a few more years in Paris. Now the club is gaming out possible outcomes: Should it sell Mbappé’s playing rights immediately, rather than risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next year? Or can it find a way to persuade a club to pay a sizable transfer fee now to secure the promise of Mbappé’s signature once his P.S.G. contract ends?
What is unthinkable, at least from P.S.G.’s perspective, is for the club to receive nothing for a player in which it has invested more than $500 million since his arrival in 2017. Just last year, P.S.G. paid a signing bonus of more than $100 million to seal his new contract. Now, club officials fear Mbappé has already given his word to Real Madrid that he will sign with the Spanish club.
Real Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez, did little to tamp down that paranoia this week, when he responded positively to a question from a fan about whether the Spanish club would recruit Mbappé. Pérez replied that Madrid would pursue the French star, “but not this year.”
For now, Mbappé has reiterated in his statement his intention to stay in Paris for one more season.
“After maintaining publicly in recent weeks that he would be a P.S.G. player next season, Kylian Mbappé has not asked to leave this summer and has just confirmed to the club that he would not be activating the extra year,” read the statement attributed to Mbappé and his representatives.
The publication of the letter by the French news media before the club had received it, the statement said, had “the sole aim of damaging their image and the discussions with the club.”
P.S.G. had expected that Mbappé would eventually move on, and club officials knew — given his stated affinity for Real Madrid — that any negotiations to extend his contract might have failed. But the club did not expect his intentions to be made public via Monday’s letter, according to the executive familiar with the talks between the club and the player. The executive said the P.S.G. president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, had discussed the matter with Mbappé’s mother, Fayza Lamari, and that other club executives had reached out to Mbappé directly. But there was little clarity over what had happened, only confirmation of the player’s intention to leave.