Kylian Mbappé: the clickbait-heavy story in football's summer of money Barney Ronay


This week the outer circles of the Mbappé industrial complex have let it be known Kylian and his dad, Wilfried, are dismayed at so many talented young players leaving Monaco this summer, a situation that can only be remedied, it seems, by leaving Monaco this summer.

Those who know say Manchester City may still have some play in this game. Somewhere in a small sealed darkened room with the radio playing gently Arsène Wenger is “still hopeful” of signing the most coveted young talent in world football. In reality the most likely destination appears to be Real Madrid.

The suggestion is the champions of Europe may be ready to pay a world-record £160m fee, a move that would qualify as not only the largest but also the most extraordinary football transfer of all time.

It is easy to lose your sense of double-take in football. In another intersecting narrative arc Neymar is currently circling closer to signing for Paris Saint-Germain in return for a wheelbarrow full of moon rock and five billion ladybird wings, a move that would rip up all previous points of transfer-record reference, meaningless money from a world beyond sport, deployed to transform a lovely little high-grade footballer made of sherbet and straw and sugar frosting into an instrument of geopolitical will-to-power.

Neymar’s elevation to uber- stardom is at least a variation on a familiar theme. Mbappé to Madrid, on the other hand, would be a departure from even the most overheated industry norms. For all Mbappé’s vast social media imprint, his status as a kind of Snapchat footballer, a viral skill- meme made flesh, it is worth remembering that he really hasn’t done anything yet. He is for now all potential energy; all cold, pure, untarnished talent.

In total Mbappé has played 39 hours of league and European football. He’s 18 and a half years old. His proposed transfer fee would be more than Madrid’s combined outlay on Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane, both of whom were already world player of the year winners and in their 20s when they signed.