Kylian Mbappé, with Real Madrid in pursuit, holds all the power in prolonged transfer saga

Ever since Jan. 1, Kylian Mbappé has been free. He is still under contract at Paris Saint-Germain, of course, but with his deal expiring in June, he could, by rule, sign a binding pre-contract agreement anywhere. He could commit to Real Madrid and lock in a lucrative future; he could re-sign with PSG. But 25 days into his quasi-free agency, he hasn’t — and his suitors are getting antsy.

Real Madrid, long favored to sign Mbappé, has reportedly asked for a definitive decision soon.

Mbappé, though, holds all the power.

He is, without a doubt, soccer’s most valuable star. He is scoring goals at a preposterous clip — 10, plus four assists, in his last six games — and has been ever since his 18th birthday. He is now 25 years old and coveted, unceasingly, relentlessly, by the sport’s biggest clubs. And he has realized the authority that his talent bestows.

Real Madrid officials would like a decision soon so that they can begin to construct their 2024-25 roster, either around or without Mbappé.

But of course, they will wait for him if necessary — because he could elevate their club for years to come.

So Mbappé, it seems, is biding his time, mulling over Real Madrid’s proposals and pondering an extension at PSG. Both offers are on the table. Both clubs want a firm “yes” or “no” by the end of January, or at least over the coming weeks. But the only true deadline is August. Only Mbappé could set one for himself any sooner. Because only an idiotic club would willfully turn its back on such a transformative player, and take itself out of the running.

Mbappé’s transfer timeline

There are legitimate reasons for Mbappé to accelerate his decision-making process. A conclusive commitment now would give Real Madrid more time to optimize his soon-to-be supporting cast. Prolonged uncertainty, on the other hand, could compel Real to commit money elsewhere — which could, in turn, deflate the salary offered to Mbappé.

ESPN has reported that Real’s current offer is already lower than its previous offers. Amid Mbappé’s indecision in 2023, Real signed Jude Bellingham for up to $145 million, then inked Vinicius Jr. to a long-term extension. Financial Fair Play rules limit how many “galácticos” the club can bring aboard — and how much it can pay them.

Prolonged uncertainty could also hang over Mbappé and PSG, as it did in 2022, when, with his contract expiring that June, he waited until May to sign an extension.

Earlier this month, he indicated his 2024 timeline might be different. “If I know what I want to do, why drag it out?” he told reporters in France. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

But there is one overriding reason for Mbappé to stay patient: if he remains, legitimately, undecided.

“It was the end of May in 2022 because I didn’t know until May,” he said. Nor does he know, right now, for sure, where he wants to be next season — or so it seems.

Mbappé’s decision

The occasional unconfirmed report claims that Mbappé has chosen Real Madrid. Many others, though, say that no choice has been made; that Madrid is bullish, but that PSG is pushing, and that perhaps even Liverpool remains in play.

Mbappé has fancied Real Madrid ever since he was a boy, ever since he slapped Cristiano Ronaldo posters onto the walls of his childhood bedroom. He is surely intrigued by the club’s constant ambition, which matches his own; and energized by the prospect of chasing Champions Leagues alongside Vini and Bellingham, plus fellow Frenchmen Aurélien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga.

PSG hasn’t sufficiently supported those ambitions, which is why many assume Mbappé will eventually leave. But he seems to be happy in Paris, his hometown, and hopeful for the half-season ahead. His manager, Luis Enrique, “arrived with clear ideas,” he said earlier this month. “It takes time, but I think we’re starting to see some interesting things.”

Another PSG Champions League flameout this spring could change his tune, of course, and push him to Madrid. But a Champions League final run could change the equation entirely.

So Mbappé could wait, and wait, and wait, if he wants.

He could haggle over money, though he does not seem overly swayed by it — or else he’d already be in Saudi Arabia, feasting on hundreds of millions of dollars.

He can, and will, do what his heart desires.

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