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Kylian Mbappé's career so far: from Real Madrid fan to player

Here is the story of how Kylian Mbappé went from idolising Zidane and Cristiano to following in their footsteps at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Here is the story of how Kylian Mbappé went from idolising Zidane and Cristiano to following in their footsteps at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Here is the story of how Kylian Mbappé went from idolising Zidane and Cristiano to following in their footsteps at the Santiago Bernabéu.VALERY HACHEAFP

Real Madrid have today confirmed the signing of Kylian Mbappé from Paris Saint Germain.

And so, here we are, at the end of the story. Chapters upon chapters have been crammed inside various volumes of hardback covers for what feels like finishing an eternal story, only to find out there’s a sequel. The lifelong dance between Kylian Mbappé and Real Madrid, the glances across the ballroom and the invitational hand to twirl together to romantic music, has finally come to an end.

The metaphors are limitless because the flirtation has been so drawn out for what genuinely feels like Mbappé's whole life. Fairy tales, ladies and gentlemen, do exist, and this one has a happy ending.

Wait, we’re only at the start?

Kylian Mbappé's lifelong fantasy of joining Real Madrid is here. The player has signed deal with the 15-time European champions. But where did Mbappé's decade-long journey to Real Madrid begin?

Mbappé's France beat Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final.
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Mbappé's France beat Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final.FRANCK FIFEDiarioAS

When did Real Madrid first try to sign Mbappé?

Well, quite handily, in the Spanish capital. The player, as one of Europe’s most promising talents, was invited to the club’s training facility, Valdebebas, way back in December of 2012, when he was in his early teens.

It was here where Kylian met his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo, and also took part in a training session before attending a match in the Santiago Bernabéu, against Espanyol. The player’s father would later declare that he was a Barcelona fan but his son was as Madridista as they come.

Mbappé's career progressed rapidly in the youth ranks of AS Bondy but it was at Monaco where he became a household name, scoring 26 goals in the 2016/17 season, announcing himself as one of football’s rising stars. Here came Real Madrid’s first major leap forward for the player, and the club reportedly reached an agreement in principle worth €180 million ($194 million), even negotiating with his entourage regarding the move.

PSG, however, managed to slip in and sign the player on loan, with Mbappé saying “[I turned down Real Madrid] because PSG is the team of my city. [Joining Real Madrid now] would have been like a Real Madrid-supporting kid from Madrid having the chance to play for his team and deciding to go somewhere else, to another country.”

How many times did Real Madrid try to buy Mbappé?

Real Madrid believed they had agreed a deal in principle with Monaco to sign Mbappé, despite noises coming out from the Ligue 1 club that nothing was in place. Mbappé excelled at PSG and became one of the world’s top players. He would later win the World Cup with France in the summer of 2018, scoring in the final.

The winks and glances were always present while Mbappé was a PSG player, with every Real Madrid signing either to plug a gap before his arrival or to partner the forward in Madrid’s front line. The Spanish club decided that tiptoeing around PSG was the best way to go, with a cautious approach preferred as to not harm relationships. The rumours still swirled, however, and Madrid even published a statement regarding the noise that the links were creating, calling them “false”. It was also around this time that Real Madrid acquired the services of Vini Jr, from Flamengo.

August 2021 was when the story broke via an interview with RMC Sport that Mbappé had requested to leave Paris, with him saying “I asked to leave and from that moment, I didn’t want to renew.” Real Madrid had, in the summer window, submitted various offers to PSG, all of which were ignored. The club, despite the silence, were hopeful, lodging an opening bid worth €160 million ($172.7m) and the following attempt was reported to be ten million euros more, with the club supposedly willing to break the world record fee of €222 million that PSG themselves paid for Neymar. The bids did not prove fruitful, but the record was clearly there of Florentino Pérez trying to make known his desire to move mountains to sign him.

The flirtations continued: just months later, in November of 2021, Mbappé released an autobiographical comic book entitled ‘My Name is Kylian’, in which he told a story of meeting both Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the comic book Mbappé calling the weekend “the best of his life”. That is about as clear a statement of intent as is physically possible.

Real Madrid president, Florentino Pérez, has always been a huge admirer of Mbappé.
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Real Madrid president, Florentino Pérez, has always been a huge admirer of Mbappé.A. Pérez Meca Europa Press

In May of the same season, the Frenchman travelled to the Santiago Bernabéu with PSG in the Champions League. The Ligue 1 side had a single goal advantage from the first leg after a wonderful solo strike from Mbappé himself, yet Real Madrid staged a ludicrously dramatic comeback to knock PSG out. The significance of this date cannot go understated: Mbappé showed the Real Madrid fans his talent was real, shining under the lights at the Bernabéu; Real Madrid showed Mbappé just what they were, too. The long-distance relationship was blossoming.

I have lots of respect for [Florentino Pérez] and for Real Madrid. They wanted to do a lot to make me happy. So I thank them for that. I’d also like to thank Real fans. I hope they’ll understand the fact I’ve chosen to stay.” Real Madrid thought they had him. The following summer, the Spanish club were hurt that Mbappé had chosen to stay put at PSG and put pen to paper on a new deal that was presented as a two-year extension, until 2025.

However, just weeks after signing a new deal, Mbappé wrote a formal letter that stated he would not take up the optional year on his one-year deal at PSG, putting the club in a position to either sell him immediately or watch him leave for free in 2024. They chose the first option, and Real Madrid sat back as they waited for the player to do the rest, to put the mechanisms in place for them to lodge their bid and see it accepted by the French club.

However, nothing materialised and Mbappé remained as Real Madrid looked elsewhere. A topsy-turvy pre-season for the attacker saw Nasser Al-Khelaïfi exile the player and leave him out of the club’s pre-season tour of Japan. Manager Luis Enrique reinstated him before the beginning of the season but from this moment it was clear that tensions were high and the relationship was over.

Meanwhile, the Spanish club signed Jude Bellingham who showed the world the best way to adapt to life at the Santiago Bernabéu, instantly becoming a key part of Madrid’s new-look attack. Real Madrid sat quietly and got on with things until the news cycle exploded in February 2024, when it was announced that Kylian Mbappé, this time for real, had made up his mind: he was leaving. The news followed that PSG had been made aware of his intention to sign for Real Madrid and that the player had even agreed a deal earlier in the month. And finally, on June 3, 2024, just days after conquering their 15th Champions League title, Real Madrid confirmed the signing of the player who had swirled in tandem with them like two interstellar black holes, always destined for one another. So, here we are, at the end of the story. Or is this the beginning?