When Kylian Mbappe lines up for Paris St-Germain on Tuesday against Real Madrid he will face the club he will almost certainly join when his contract expires this summer.
While nothing has been confirmed, it would be a major shock if the France striker does not end up in the white shirt he has dreamed of wearing since he was a kid.
The 23-year-old will not say anything for now – at least not until PSG’s Champions League last-16 meeting with the Spanish league leaders is over. By that time, he will hope to have given Real a first-hand view of exactly what they will be getting.
Mbappe, the boy from Bondy in the suburbs seven miles from the centre of Paris, always wanted to play for PSG, but it is also true that he was probably always destined for Madrid, even though it has taken a while to get to this point.
He was wanted by Europe’s elite clubs in 2017 after starring for Monaco. He chose PSG – initially joining on loan in a deal that would ultimately cost the French champions £165.7m – because it was the club of his city, the one supported by most of his friends, the most important club in France at the time.
But it was only ever likely to be a stop in his career. Mbappe admired Cristiano Ronaldo and grew up watching his role model starring for Real. It helps that Mbappe is that rare breed of player who, like the Portuguese, can cope with the intense pressure that comes with being the star name for one of the world’s great clubs.
At 19, having just scored in the final as France won the 2018 World Cup, Mbappe gave an interview in which his mentality became clear. “This is just the start,” he said. “I am here to make history.”
If he carries on with his current form it is difficult to see how he won’t make a huge impact as the main man at the Bernabeu.
Other players have tried and failed to take on the mantle from Ronaldo, who left in 2018 after winning four Champions Leagues in nine years in the Spanish capital. Eden Hazard, whom many thought was destined to do just that, was never strong enough to be anything more than just a fine player on that stage. The extra pressure demanded of superstars not just on the pitch but also as leaders off it can take its toll.
But Mbappe is different. The pursuit of excellence determines that being good will never be enough for him. What he craves – and what Real can potentially give him – is the opportunity to show he is the best of the best
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