Kylian Mbappe was aware that all eyes were on him as he walked off the field at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday night following a depressing and unimpressive 1-1 draw with Benfica. The world was watching, and to be fair, it had been since he and his teammate and friend Achraf Hakimi got off the Paris Saint-Germain team van almost four hours earlier.
Mbappe had the football world to himself all day on Tuesday, which may have been his intention. He was the center of attention. He was the subject of every pregame discussion, every TV show, every radio show, every newspaper column, and every social media post. All hell broke loose when it was revealed that he intended to quit PSG in the early afternoon, European time.
The 23-year-old has now opted to leave in January, according to sources who spoke to ESPN, exactly 143 days after agreeing to a three-year deal (two years, with an option for a third). He feels deceived by all the promises PSG made to him when he extended his contract but did not keep it. Above all things, he thinks that the club has let him down. Although he doesn’t think that accurately reflects the situation at the club right now, he intended to be the project’s focal point.
When he decided to stay in Paris last summer and commit to playing there for the foreseeable future rather than go to Real Madrid, he was only 23 years old. He now feels that his decision was a mistake and regrets it, sources told ESPN. Although football is a major contributing factor, Mbappe’s entourage claims that the problems run far deeper than that.
He is unhappy that PSG’s results don’t accurately represent the situation, despite the fact that they are now top of the Ligue 1 standings and in their Champions League group, have gone 15 games without losing, and have scored 12 goals in all competitions this season. The team isn’t performing well.
There are problems everywhere, whether it be the manager Christophe Galtier’s alleged lack of tactical insight, Lionel Messi’s injury, or even the lack of teamwork from the entire roster (PSG has traveled the fewest distance of any team in the Champions League group stage thus far this season), there are causes for concern. Additionally, there are grounds to be dissatisfied with Mbappe.
Additionally, the Frenchman is a lone striker, a position he dislikes. He wants to be paired with a second striker so that he can play off a more traditional No. 9 and have more freedom. Only 19-year-old Hugo Ekitike showed up despite PSG’s pledge to sign one in the summer; although talented, he is still too young and unprepared. Every time they tried to sign Robert Lewandowski (who ended up signing with Barcelona), Gianluca Scamacca (who signed with West Ham), or even Marcus Rashford, they were unsuccessful. As a result, Messi and Neymar are excelling in those playmaking roles behind Mbappe while he continues to play alone up front.
Speaking of Neymar, living together with the international athlete from Brazil is challenging. Their different paths — Mbappe is very much on the rise given his reputation, while Neymar is winding down and possibly into the final years of his career — have caused them to grow apart from one another. They used to be buddies. Neymar and Mbappe disagree on why PSG granted Mbappe such a large contract, with Neymar believing that his teammate is getting away with too much bad behavior. Neymar is still there and doing well in the role Mbappe assumed would be his own despite the fact that he was promised he would be sold in the summer.
Things are difficult defensively as well. One of the promises made to Mbappe was that a top-tier center-back would join the team to support their campaign for the Champions League championship. After Presnel Kimpembe’s injury and Sergio Ramos’ dismissal last weekend against Reims, PSG is undoubtedly vulnerable in the heart of defense despite having been targeted all summer long for Milan Skriniar. Ramos received his 28th career dismissal as a result of which he will not play in Le Classique against Lyon on Sunday night. A concern is the lack of depth at the back.
Galtier’s PSG is still overly reliant on individual flashes of brilliance from one of their key players. They still don’t press or counter-press effectively enough to pose a threat to powerful opponents, and after a promising start, their play with the ball hasn’t really improved many weeks to week. Mbappe is aware of everything. He observes it during practice and games and doesn’t think a quick cure is possible. He has been told that PSG is assembling a fantastic team around him that is capable of winning the Champions League, but he doesn’t see it yet.
The clock is now running out for Galtier after three straight draws with below-average performances, and there are still some unanswered questions regarding his hiring. We were able to observe some of his PSG team’s shortcomings against Benfica, particularly in defensive transitions. Since Messi and Nuno Mendes are currently sidelined due to injuries, Tuesday’s Champions League match felt devoid of any sort of game plan or playing style.
All the issues won’t be simple to resolve, and Mbappe is aware of this. He has mentally relocated to a new location nevertheless. People close to him are aware of his extreme stubbornness and that once he has an idea, it’s there. PSG, on the other hand, doesn’t want to let him go in January and may even try to compel him to stay, but that strategy may backfire given how important he is to this squad and how frequently we have already seen that this season.
He has, nevertheless, lost his mind. He is still decisive on the field, as seen by the penalty kick he converted against Benfica, but he believes that a new chapter in his life is about to begin and that it will take place in a different location. Just how swiftly this will unfold remains to be seen.