Ice ages haven’t lasted as long as this.
Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid… it has been a thing for about a decade at least.
The Athletic was not even in existence when the pair began courting each other. Twitter was still fun (and called Twitter), Taylor Swift hadn’t heard of American football and the closest thing we got to a global pandemic was from watching Contagion.
It has been an inexorably long saga, the very worst kind of transfer saga in fact, with endless posturing, incessant lies and spin and thousands upon thousands of stories claiming that it is finally happening.
Well now, once and for all, it surely is. Mbappe will leave PSG and you’d have to assume that next season, he will play in the Bernabeu (assuming another club doesn’t have the opportunity to pip them and he ends up at, say, Osasuna) and the football world can concentrate on talking about other stuff like, you know, football matches.
The world’s best player will not rot in PSG’s reserves, believe it or not. He won’t be put on gardening leave either. Instead, he’ll play for the club he’s wanted to play for forever and Real Madrid will sign the player they’ve wanted to sign forever. Imagine that.
If you think we have had it bad here, try living in Spain where the coverage has been akin to the kind we would get for the death of a royal family member in the UK.
In recent months, since Mbappe did not take up the option to extend his contract until 2025, things have gone feral. On TV and radio, whether Real Madrid are winning matches or losing matches, whether Jude Bellingham is scoring goals or not, whether Carlo Ancelotti is staying as manager or leaving, Mbappe news trumps the lot.
Ancelotti will regularly face questions about Mbappe in press conferences, which you kind of expect. But Real Madrid players, Javier Tebas (the president of La Liga), even Xavi and Joan Laporta over at Barcelona, they have all been quizzed for their Mbappe opinions. Honestly, who cares? Other than the TV producers who need to quench an insatiable need for 24/7 rolling football coverage.
Why would anyone want to know what Laporta thinks about another club signing another player? Just ask Nick Knowles what he thinks of the UK slipping back into recession while you’re at it. It’s pointless to the point of utter saturation, a stage we reached with this on/off transfer yonks ago.
Front pages have been dominated by Mbappe in Spain for ages, focusing unremittingly on ‘the decision’.
“Mbappe will want to play for Real Madrid,” one Marca headline screamed in April 2020. Presumably “in 2024” was in the small print.
“Mbappe takes the step” followed in September of that year, implying he was on his way to Madrid. Presumably just on holiday.
“The game of the summer” was last year. Maybe they meant the Ashes.
There has even been a saga within the saga, with Madrid feeling betrayed by Mbappe when he chose to sign his last extension with PSG. Madrid fans said they wouldn’t forgive Mbappe… for choosing to stay with his current employers. Grow up.
The journalists were at it too. Mbappe’s decision to remain in Paris was called “the biggest mistake in his career”; even if he won the Champions League and another World Cup, it wouldn’t be enough. Oh, and the fact he wanted to stay in the fifth-best league in the world indicated “he holds himself in very low esteem”.
That does feel like a very Real Madrid thing, though; sheer indignation at any player in the world daring to turn them down. It’s a very special kind of attitude, one that has fuelled and exacerbated the dullest soap opera storyline since Ian Beale’s weight loss struggles on Eastenders.
There has never been a moment when it did not seem as if Mbappe was heading to Real Madrid at some point soon. It has always been when, not if — even when he tweeted “LIES” about a report saying he wanted to join Real last summer. “I have already said that I will continue at PSG where I am very happy,” he added, while doing the David Brent long nose mime.
To be honest, we say it’s a done deal, but no doubt we should be prepared for the next chapter. Which club will Mbappe join now that he has confirmed he is leaving PSG? Within minutes of today’s news breaking, an odds comparison website sent out an email (in such a hurried fashion that the email subject mistakenly read “Kylian Mbappe set to leave Real in summer 2024”) stating there was an “implied chance of 83.3 per cent” that Mbappe was off to Madrid, but also a 3.8 per cent chance he could go to Barcelona, a move that would involve more lever pulling than an octopus running a train station.
But for now, it feels like it’s finally over. And when we see Mbappe, at last, holding aloft that famous all-white kit, we’ll all be relieved. Unless it’s Leeds United on a Bosman from PSG in 2034.
(Top photo: Julien de Rosa/AFP via Getty Images)