The summer was at its brightest and the new campaign at its youngest when Real Madrid president Florentino Perez flew into Los Angeles along with director general Jose Angel Sanchez, with the knowledge that the deal for Kylian Mbappe to join the club was all-but done.
Back on July 21, the Real chiefs had just finished a period of talks with the player’s club in Monaco, where they had been informed of Mbappe’s decision to leave the principality post-haste.
However, what then unfolded went decidedly against Los Blancos.
Agreement in principle
At the end of that meeting in the south of France, the deal was not complete but had progressed well. Both clubs intended to close it out once the fee was sealed; Monaco asking for 190m euros and happy to avoid selling to a domestic rival while Real had initially pledged 150m euros plus 30m euros in bonuses. The agreement was so crystal clear that MARCA published the details as Perez headed to LA, confident of the transfer’s imminency.
Meeting the player’s father in LA
The next meeting took place on July 24 in the US, between Madrid and Wilfried Mbappe, the striker’s father. He was a man who the club knew well, having visited Valdebebas on several occasions over the past three years. Rewinding one month, to June 14, Perez and Sanchez had committed to paying the player a 7m euro net salary on a six-year deal once the clubs had an agreement. Mbappe’s father acknowledged his son’s desire to play for Los Blancos but insisted that the sporting project was the priority , and it was not a certainty given Zinedine Zidane’s preference to lead with BBC up front.
The Bale Option
Space clearly had to be made for Mbappe in the LaLiga champions’ squad and Zidane was pushed on how to make this happen, with the coach naming Gareth Bale as the most expendable forward. At this point, Madrid expected Manchester United to make an offer for the winger but, despite a few public shows of affection for Jose Mourinho, a bid never materialised .
Over a month was still left in the transfer window and Real were willing to bide their time . Either Wilfried Mbappe’s hesitancy would pass or Zidane would yield and agree to drop Bale or another first-team forward more regularly. One thing seemed to be clear: the competition had dried up. Manchester City had withdrawn their interest, Barcelona had other targets, and PSG were seen as incapable of legally paying for Mbappe as well as the new 222m euro deal for Neymar. However, club president Perez never trusted the Qatari owners of the Ligue 1 side, given their enormous economic potential.
The Salary Factor
At that meeting in California, Wilfried Mbappe had asserted that PSG would meet the full 180m euro fee demanded by Monaco and pay the teenager 14m euros net per season , offering him uninterrupted first-team football at the heart of their attack to boot. Madrid were left with a sour taste as the player’s father had seemingly emphasised the importance of money, just as they felt Neymar’s father had done with his son’s future.
A big issue had thus also arisen; if Real were to match this astronomical figure, it would mean paying Mbappe more than Sergio Ramos and double the wage taken home by Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema.
Still, they had hope that Monaco would not relent against their French counterparts, although soon enough the deed was done, and the dream of having Mbappe come to play for Real Madrid was left frustrated.