Telecinco had the foresight to broadcast the Stade Reims-PSG game, with the attraction that Messi would almost certainly be making his debut - if not in the starting XI then as a sub, which was how it transpired. But added to the expectation of watching Messi in his first game for PSG was the suspense about how the evening might pan out for Mbappé, who has been in the eye of the storm following rumours that he could since for Real Madrid before Tuesday’s transfer deadline. So there was also an air of anticipation about whether Mbappé would play or not - and if he did, just how motivated would he be? If he scored, would he celebrate or use the opportunity to make some kind of defiant gesture?
Mbappé looking committed and happy
Soon we learned that Mbappé was on the team sheet. There is an unwritten rule when it comes to players who are in the middle of negotiating a move elsewhere - generally they are kept on the bench or omitted from the squad list altogether to avoid any trouble. But PSG didn’t do that, Mbappé was in the starting XI and he looked happy and focused, scoring both of the game’s goals and left the field a picture of contentment. That gave me the impression that even though he wants to leave, while he is there, he will give his best. Curiously, his goals came from passes by former Real Madrid players - Di María who, several years on is still very effective, and Achraf who, in my mind is one of the best talents to have come out of Madrid’s youth academy in a long time.
After watching Mbappé play, the question is: will he join Madrid this week or not? I still think he will, but I still can’t get my head around the fact that it’s an operation in which everyone will end up losing money. Real Madrid are willing to pay 180 million euros for a player who could join them for free next year; PSG don’t seem to be too fussed about losing 180 million euros if that happens, and they want to keep the player. Meanwhile Mbappé could easily wait a year then join Madrid on a free transfer with the prospect of a lucrative signing-on fee. If the operation goes through now, Madrid and Mbappé, the ones who are pushing for it to happen, will both lose money; and if the transfer doesn’t happen, it will be PSG who lose money - the ones who don’t want to sell. I don’t think we have ever seen such a frivolous disregard for money in the world of football.