Having been knocked out of the Champions League himself the previous night, there’s a good chance Kylian Mbappe watched Wednesday’s other semi-final between Chelsea and Real Madrid. The French forward has, after all, been strongly linked with the latter and so it would be natural if he felt like scouting his potential new team.
However, what Mbappe saw won’t have enthused him much. Real Madrid were comprehensively outplayed by Chelsea over both legs with the Blues’ wastefulness in front of goal the only thing that kept the Spanish giants competitive. Zinedine Zidane’s side wilted. At times they looked out of their depth.
This is pertinent for Mbappe as he approaches a career crossroads. Next summer will see the 22-year-old out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain with talks over an extension believed to have stalled. Mbappe is reportedly keeping his options open and one of those options is Real Madrid, long-term admirers of the forward.
The admiration is mutual. Mbappe is known to be a fan of the Spanish club - we’ve all seen the picture of him sitting on his bed as a teenager surrounded posters of Cristiano Ronaldo in all-white. There is a strong feeling in Madrid that the World Cup winner is destined to one day become a Galactico.
But why would Mbappe join Real Madrid right now? Wednesday night proved they can’t compete for football’s top honours. Zidane has enjoyed great success as a manager, but his team is currently a long way from the top of the European game and are on the brink of a painful generational transition. Legends such as Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos pushed out the door in the coming years as Real Madrid seek to rejuvenate while laden with close to €1 billion of debt.
Of course, the signing of Mbappe would help Real Madrid make that transition, but does the Frenchman really want to become part of a project at this stage of his career? His performances in the Champions League this season have raised his profile to a new level. Mbappe might already be the best player in the world. He needs a team capable of supporting him.
Look at how isolated Benzema was at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. It was only through his individual brilliance that Real Madrid even had a foothold in the tie following a stunning first leg equaliser. Benzema was once again asked to do it all on his own in the second leg, but it was too much to ask of the 33-year-old. This is the structural vacuum Mbappe would walk into. It would all be on him.
Mbappe would encounter many of the same problems at Real Madrid he has experienced at PSG as the face of a top-heavy, unbalanced team. Not so long ago, Kroos and Modric would have been the perfect creative partners for the 22-year-old, but they are now in the twilight of their respective careers. Eden Hazard might have worked well with Mbappe, but he has barely been fit enough to play a full match over the last two seasons. The same goes for Marco Asensio while Rodrigo and Vinicius Junior remain raw.
Real Madrid might well be Mbappe’s destiny, but he must wait for the Spanish giants to prove to him that they are heading in the right direction. Their rebuild has to be consist of more than just the big money signing of the French forward. Mbappe can’t allow himself to be Real Madrid’s one-man salvation because he deserves better than that.
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