P.S.G.’s strategy of bringing the most exciting talents, whatever the cost, has had mixed results. The team continued its dominance of the French league, the weakest of the five major European competitions, with yet another title this season, but success on the continental stage has continued to elude it, raising questions about the team’s durability in the toughest games.
It remains unclear if anything more than an enormous salary increase convinced Mbappé to remain in Paris. He was reported to have been frustrated when P.S.G. rejected Real Madrid’s offers last season, with the P.S.G. sporting director Leonardo saying at the time that Mbappé wanted out.
Mbappe has continued to flourish this season, however, leading the French league in goals (25) and assists (17). All the while, Real Madrid had continued to court him, and until late this week the Spanish club was convinced it had finally managed to persuade a player coveted by its president, Florentino Pérez. News media reports in Spain at the start of the week even suggested a deal was done.
In recent days, though, that confidence began to evaporate as Mbappé delayed on putting pen to paper. Then, on Friday, Mbappe’s mother, who has been involved in the negotiations, said her son was weighing two offers. Real Madrid’s worst fears were confirmed on Saturday, when Pérez, in Belgrade to follow Real Madrid’s basketball team in a European final, received a message telling him Mbappé had decided to stay at P.S.G.
For Mbappé, the deal comes amid major efforts to build his brand away from the field. The striker has spent months in talks with the United States-based talent agency Endeavor to create his own media company that will be modeled on one similar to a business built by the basketball star LeBron James. That new company could lift Mbappé profile, and his wealth, into the same ranks as Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, superstars whose global stardom now outstrips the sport they play.
With both Messi and Ronaldo now in their 30s, it is players like Mbappé and Haaland who will look to dominate soccer’s biggest prizes, including individual honors like the Ballon D’Or, awarded to the world’s best player, and competitions like the Champions League, a trophy both P.S.G. and Manchester City covet, but which neither has won.