Will Real Madrid sign Kylian Mbappe in 2021 or 2022?

Kylian Mbappe (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
Kylian Mbappe (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images) /

Kylian Mbappe is quite obviously Real Madrid’s top transfer target over the next two windows, but which year will Los Blancos sign him?

The consensus prediction has long been that Real Madrid will make an all-out effort to sign Kylian Mbappe from PSG in 2021, carefully negotiating with PSG’s leaders in Qatar while preparing an offer that the Ligue 1 giants cannot refuse.

It could get tricky, because PSG want to do whatever they can to hold onto the Parisian forward, who is the most valuable player in the world. Mbappe is that club’s centerpiece in ways that Neymar isn’t, and his performances this season are making it clear that he will be the best player in the world by the time Real try to sign him.

The reason why 2021 is such a big target for Real Madrid is the nature of Mbappe’s current deal with PSG. Mbappe’s contract will run out at the end of the 2021-2022 season, and it would seem impossible for a player of his caliber to hit free agency or to sign a pre-contract agreement with, say, Madrid.

Earlier this year, there was a report from Sergio Santos Chozas of AS stating that Leonardo would rather have Kylian Mbappe leave for free in 2022 than accept any transfer offer for the player in 2021.

It seems almost unbelievable to imagine PSG taking such a hardline stance, until you realize that this is PSG we are talking about here. If any club can afford to take such a position and sacrifice potentially hundreds of millions to make a statement, then it is PSG. And we’ve seen them play hardball before. Just ask Neymar and Edinson Cavani if they got what they wanted in the past.

For Real Madrid, signing Mbappe sounds like such a dream that it seems too good to be true. And that’s how Madridistas should treat the possibility of signing Mbappe for free. It is actually conceivable, but there are a lot of “What ifs?” that come into play.

The biggest thing working in favor for Real Madrid is that Mbappe hasn’t signed a new contract with PSG despite all of their offers. Nor has he signed a deal with PSG that would include a high release clause only applicable to Real. That’s been rumored as a way of getting Mbappe to sign a new deal but still appeasing his apparent dream to play for Los Blancos.

Real have carefully laid the foundation for an Mbappe approach in 2021. They seem prepared to go all-in for the 21-year-old next summer, which could take 180 million euros or more, depending on what happens down the road.

But if PSG decide to shut down any reasonable offer and start asking for exorbitant fees or for star players in exchange, such as Vinicius Junior or even Thibaut Courtois, we could be talking about 2022 as the decision point. If PSG play hardball with Mbappe, then Mbappe could just as easily do the same to them and rebuff all contract offers until 2022. In the end, the power is not in Real’s hands or even in PSG’s hands, as much as the latter club always likes to think they are in command of every situation. The power rests with Mbappe.

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As for Real, the preference would obviously be saving 150-200 million euros at a time like this. But if you’ve watched Real Madrid this season, you know how desperately they need Mbappe in 2021. The patience could pay off, but I doubt Florentino Perez or Zinedine Zidane want to face another season with a suboptimal attack and only Karim Benzema capable of scoring 20 goals. That’s another dynamic to consider as the crucial dates and decision points for a Mbappe transfer draw closer.