As Real Madrid were celebrating their Champions League triumph at the Stade de France, on the other side of the French capital PSG were toasting their own major triumph
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Before kick-off, a lone Real Madrid supporter walked around Paris with a sign above his head which stated “Mbappe you will regret”.
Much of the build-up to last month’s Champions League final was circled around the Spanish club’s failure to land Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe.
The Frenchman was available on a free, Real believed they had lured him away from his homeland. But there was a change of heart and strings were pulled. The offer of more money and power at Parc des Princes kept him in Paris for three more years. Well, that’s the length of contract he has signed anyways.
Those in Spain – and that plucky fan in Paris – believe Mbappe has made the wrong decision. Those in Paris don’t agree. As Real prepared to beat Liverpool later that day to win their 14th European Cup, up at the home of PSG there was still a buzz.
The showpiece event was happening on the other side of the city but fans were still flocking to the 16th arrondissement. Some came out of the stadium after a tour, some were inside the club shop buying the No 7 shirts of their hero who had put pen to paper days earlier.
“We are selling 100s more,” said one of the shop staff about the Mbappe jerseys which were on offer. Meanwhile, Paris native Leo wandered in front of the wall of legends at the ground.
“It was nervous times,” he said. “We were very happy when we get the news. I think it gives us real belief.
“He’s the most promising player in the world right now. He will dominate like [Cristiano] Ronaldo in the next 10 years and hopefully that will be at PSG.”
Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Joy was in the air, for sure. There was some concern, though…”I think he now has too much power,” said Ozan, a PSG supporter who had travelled over from Germany. “Maybe he is bigger than the club.”
One thing not in doubt is that now the pressure really is on PSG, Mbappe and president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who has been charged by Qatar to win the Champions League, to deliver.
“It’s huge that he will stay,” said Christophe Remise, a journalist who covers PSG for La for Figaro Sport. “Huge for PSG, huge for Qatar. If he went to Real Madrid, which he wanted to do last season, you have Neymar who is 30 – is he still the player he was?
“You have Messi who is nearly 35 and didn’t have a great season. Without Mbappe, you have to rebuild. With Mbappe, you can build around him.”
The construction job begins now. Midfield is key, according to Remise. “[Gini] Wijnaldum was very good at Liverpool but it didn’t happen in France,” he said. “A lot of the season he has been a ghost.
“They will have to sign one or two big midfielders. Maybe Paul Pogba, there is talk of him going to Juventus. Mbappe is a big signing, I think he is the best player in the world, but when you are that kind of player who stays then that says a lot and maybe it will make players think ‘it is in Paris that I have to be’.”
Before signings can be made, key decisions have to come in the management structure. PSG won Ligue 1 but went out of the Champions League to Real in the last-16.
“There was a big transfer window last summer so there were a lot of expectations, they weren’t fulfilled,” said Remise. “They just won the league but it wasn’t a very good season.
PSG via Getty Images)
“The Champions League was the real important matter. Marco Verratti said going out of the Champions League ‘killed us’ and it was true. Mbappe gave a little bit of a happy ending.”
Sporting director Leonardo has already left, he has been replaced by Luis Campos. That leaves manager Mauricio Pochettino in a precarious position with one year remaining on his contract. The former Tottenham boss was booed when PSG celebrated their title win.
“He has to go,” said Marc, another fan who had just finished a tour of the stadium. “Not good enough to win only league and I don’t think he gets the best out of the players. We need to buy new players and I don’t trust him with them.”
Zinedine Zidane was the most popular choice to replace Pochettino among the mingling supporters in the shadow of Parc des Princes. The France hero guided Real to three Champions League crowns. That is the trophy Qatar wants to get their hands on after all their investment.
“With PSG you can never know,” said Remise. “It seems obvious that Pochettino should be gone in a couple of weeks but with PSG you can never be sure of everything.
“Especially when Mbappe seems to be a big fan of him. I don’t know if he is a big enough fan to keep him though. I don’t know if Zidane will be the next coach of PSG, I know Qatar dreams of him.
“If there is an opportunity, I think they will prefer Zidane to Pochettino.” Reports in recent days have suggested Campos could turn to Christophe Galtier, the Nice boss. The pair previously worked together at Lille.
AFP via Getty Images)
“What happened this season was not acceptable,” said PSG supporter Leo. “Hopefully Zidane will be here next season and he can win us the Champions League.”
Whoever gets the job, not only do they need to bring in new signings but they also have to discover how to get the best out of Lionel Messi in this team. The Argentina star failed to replicate his Barcelona form in his debut season in Paris. He scored 11 goals and made 15 assists in his deeper role in the PSG midfield. The goal tally was some way shy of his 38 in his final season in Spain.
“Obviously his best years are behind him, you can’t beat the clock at the end of the day,” said Remise. “You have to say it has to be tough for him after so long in Barcelona, which was a club which was built around him and now he has to learn everything at PSG, play for Mbappe. We didn’t see the real Messi, it can be better next season. It has to be better next season.”
A lot must be better next season at PSG, it seems. But now they’ve got Mbappe to stay, Champions League glory has to happen. Mbappe has been told he will regret staying, but if he delivers the European Cup for the city of his birth then his decision will be more than justified.