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Kylian Mbappe leaves PSG as their greatest talent – but not universally loved

Written by on May 13, 2024

In the end, Kylian Mbappe’s farewell to the Parc des Princes echoed his time at Paris Saint-Germain.

There was one more goal, another trophy and one step closer to another record — the first player in French football history to win the top-flight Golden Boot in six consecutive seasons.

There was a tifo put together by the club’s ultras in the Auteuil stand before kick-off to honour his legacy — an image of his trademark celebration, arms folded. There was also a banner, stating: “Child of the Parisian banlieue, you became a PSG legend.”

But this game was not a full celebration of his seven years in Paris. Yes, there were songs lauding him, but also a few boos and whistles before kick-off when his name was read out. The night would end with a trophy lift but also in a defeat to Toulouse, only PSG’s second loss of the campaign. Luis Enrique labelled it their worst performance of the season.

Considering the impact Mbappe has made on PSG, his send-off was underwhelming. The main focus of the evening was on the title win rather than Mbappe’s goodbye. PSG celebrated their 12th Ligue 1 triumph, an achievement that brings clear daylight at the summit of French football, now two clear of Marseille and Saint-Etienne. It was also the club’s 50th major trophy. It was greeted with a glitzy party, orchestrated by celebrated Parisian composer Thomas Roussel.

Mbappe’s announcement — made in a four-minute video on Friday via his social media channels — was just too short notice for much else. There was no concurrent statement or post from the club. They were caught by surprise.


Mbappe will leave PSG – what does this mean for him, the club and Real Madrid?

But Mbappe could not depart PSG without clarification before the club’s final home game of the season. The weeks of innuendos about his future could not drag on beyond that. He has not revealed his destination, which all in Paris expect to be Real Madrid, but he did confirm that, this time, it really was goodbye.

How he would be received by the Parc des Princes, for the final time, was always going to be a point of focus. Would supporters cheer him? On the face of it, not hailing the club’s greatest goalscorer might seem outlandish, but this is PSG and this is Mbappe, and the last seven years of off-field drama were hardly likely to have no impact.

His goodbye video had hints of that; Mbappe thanked nearly everyone at the club, including all of his former coaches. There was no reference, though, to club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, nor former sporting director Antero Henrique.

Kylian Mbappe and the PSG squad celebrate their Ligue 1 title win (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

This past season alone will have contributed to that. After informing the club that he wished to leave at the end of his contract, instead of triggering an option to extend it by a further year, he was told by PSG that he had to extend his deal or be sold. He was then unceremoniously dumped into the ‘bomb squad’, the group of transfer-listed undesirables, and omitted from the club’s pre-season tour of Japan and South Korea.

It was just the latest episode of the Mbappe-PSG soap opera. In 2022, he seemed set to sign for Real Madrid but did a late U-turn and signed a lucrative contract. A year previously, the summer was dominated by speculation about his future. So much of his spell at the club has, to an extent, felt like one very long goodbye. That can be tiresome.

The brilliance of Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe may well have been aware of that. On Friday, after his announcement video, Mbappe attended a barbecue with the club’s ultras at the Parc des Princes. From the outside, it looked like an act of goodwill before his departure. Last season, Mbappe was part of a team that was heckled as they received their medals for the Ligue 1 title, but he avoided the worst of it and his relationship has been rebuilt over time.

Throughout this season, he has not been heckled by the ultras, despite the off-field speculation. On Sunday, there were some loud whistles before kick-off but after full time, during the trophy lift, he was afforded a triple name call from matchday announcer Michel Montana. There was also the tifo after the warm-up. Mbappe went over to greet the ultras and watched as the tifo was raised in front of him. It was accompanied by Mbappe chants.

A giant tifo depicting Mbappe is raised before kick-off last night (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

That was fitting because, despite everything, PSG will still remember him as their best-ever Parisian. He was born in Bondy, on the outskirts of Paris, and returned to the capital to break a whole host of records for the club, all before his 26th birthday.

His goal against Toulouse took him to 256 for the club, extending his position as the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. For PSG, he also has the most goals in Europe, the most hat-tricks, the most ‘doubles’ and the most goals in a single game (five). He has helped France win the World Cup, scored in successive World Cup finals, including one hat-trick, has won the tournament’s Golden Boot, and has gone on to become the national team captain.

That is his sporting legacy and fans will remember him for all of that, too. His goal on Sunday was a prime example, with a burst of incomprehensible pace, combined with sublime control and an ice-cool finish — but he also played in an era at PSG that won’t be remembered as favourably.

Mbappe celebrates his last league goal for PSG, against Toulouse (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

It has been a time of politics, player power and, fundamentally, unfulfilled ambitions for the club in the Champions League. It is a period that ended with disillusionment, a sentiment defined by fan protests last summer, which is now beginning to dissipate as the club pivot away from superstar players towards a new era and a new identity.

Over time, Mbappe will surely be remembered more fondly, as arguably their best-ever talent and a club icon.

Right now, though, PSG and their supporters are impatient to usher in a new chapter.

Fans will look back with fondness at his greatness but, as Sunday illustrated, memories of the off-the-field noise will linger. The sentiment that greeted his farewell is not entirely affectionate despite all that has been achieved.

(Top photo: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

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