Kylian Mbappe made the startling revelation yesterday that he had talked over his potential transfer to Real Madrid with Emmanuel Macron, saying he appreciated the "good advice" of the French president, who wanted the Paris Saint-Germain star to stay in France.
World Cup winner Mbappe had for months seemed certain to sign for Real Madrid before being persuaded to sign a new three-year deal at PSG, the club he joined in 2017. "We talked quite a bit," Mbappe said of his exchanges with Macron. "You can say that it was good advice. He wanted me to stay, that's part of the negotiations."
Mbappe said that Macron was one of a number of different people to whom he had talked. "It's then that you see that football has changed and has an important place in society. It's important to also know how to stay in one's place despite the importance that can be given to me in the country."
With that in mind, Mbappe also revealed that PSG would not block him from playing in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The Paris-born Mbappe was raised in the northeastern Parisian surburb of Bondy, part of the Seine-Saint-Denis department that is home to not only the Stade de France, but also several other Olympic sites including the Olympic Village.
There is no doubt that the potential participation of a star-quality, home-grown talent in the Summer Games would be a massive boost for organisers. "First of all I have to be picked," Mbappe said of the possibility of taking part in Paris 2024. "We talked about it with the club. The club are not against it, they are for it. There weren't any problems with regard to that in negotiations."
There has been speculation that as well as a gigantic, undisclosed financial package, PSG's Qatari owners had persuaded Mbappe to remain with his hometown club by agreeing to give the 23-year-old forward some say in which players to sign for next season.
Mbappe however denied any such agreement had been made. "I remain a footballer, who is part of a team, and I will not go beyond this role. I won't go beyond my role as a player," he said at a press conference seated alongside PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi.
"Everyone knows that last year, I wanted to leave and I was convinced that it was the best choice, but the years go by and things change. I am French and there is this sentimental side to leaving my country which would have been difficult. The project has changed, my club wants to build a new sporting ambition and I think there are other great stories to write here, that's what matters."
Hours after Mbappe announced on Saturday that he was staying at the club came the news that PSG's powerful sporting director Leonardo – heavily criticised by supporters – had been sacked. Al-Khelaifi said Mbappe's decision to stay at the French champions sent "a very strong sign".
"We are keeping the best player in the world," the president said. "This is a great day for Paris Saint-Germain, for our supporters in France and in the whole world – Kylian is staying at PSG for the next three seasons and that is important for us and for Ligue 1."