MADRID (AP) — For Real Madrid and its fans, it was not about whether it would happen. It was just a matter of when it would happen.
Signing Kylian Mbappé was seen as a done deal in the Spanish capital. The only doubts when it came to the young France forward were about whether he would flank Karim Benzema on the right or left side of the attack.
Madrid supporters even had already “welcomed” the France star by applauding him at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium when he played with Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 of the Champions League in March, when Madrid advanced with a 3-1 win.
If he comes back, though, Mbappé better not expect the same warm reception from the Madrid crowd.
Mbappé rejected Madrid yet again on Saturday, choosing to renew his contract with PSG instead of moving to the Spanish powerhouse, dealing another blow to club president Florentino Pérez and his long quest to sign the youngster.
“I’m very happy to continue this adventure, to stay in France, in Paris, my city. I always said Paris was my home,” the 23-year-old Mbappé said. “I hope I will continue doing what I love the most, which is to carry on playing football and winning trophies.”
Spanish media said Mbappé personally called Pérez to tell him that he had decided to stay with PSG.
The loss of Mbappé comes about a year after Pérez also failed to push for the Super League, the elite club competition that was supposed to compete with the Champions League but instead folded only a few days after being announced amid backlash from fans and smaller clubs.
It wasn’t the first time Pérez and Madrid were rejected by Mbappé, who said in the past his dream was to one day play for the Spanish club.
Pérez had been trying to seal the transfer since last year, when the talented forward was still under contract with PSG. But the French club turned down Madrid’s official bid of 180 million euros ($190 million) — the same amount it signed Mbappé for from Monaco in 2017 — and then another one of reportedly 200 million euros ($211 million).
Madrid failed to secure Mbappé even before that, when he visited the club's facilities at age 14 but instead decided to join Monaco's youth academy.
Mbappé was supposed to be Madrid’s biggest addition to the squad since it signed Eden Hazard from Chelsea in 2019. The club had been saving money in recent transfer windows and carried a healthy spending limit to afford Mbappé, who would likely be the club's highest-paid player ever.
Mbappé would have arrived to boost an attack that already includes fellow Frenchman Benzema and Brazilian youngsters Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo.
Criticism against Pérez quickly started to pop up from fans the Spanish media, saying he didn't do enough to convince the player to join Madrid.
The club had not officially commented on Mbappé’s announcement, but some of its players posted messages praising Madrid.
“To be a Madrid (player) is a privilege that not everyone can have,” midfielder Federico Valverde said.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti is preparing his team to face Liverpool in the Champions League final next Saturday in Paris, when the club will try to win a record-extending 14th European title,
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Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press