Sports

June 3, 2024

Mbappe fulfils destiny with Real Madrid move

Mbappe fulfils destiny with Real Madrid move

The first time Real Madrid showed an interest in signing Kylian Mbappe was in December 2012 — although he was only approaching his 14th birthday the Spanish giants knew they were looking at a prodigious talent.

Mbappe, who was living at the French Football Federation’s academy at Clairefontaine at the time, was invited to Madrid for a week, taken to a game at the Santiago Bernabeu and to the club’s training ground where he met Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The young Kylian idolised Ronaldo, decorating his bedroom with posters of the Portuguese superstar. There is a famous picture of Ronaldo with his arm around the youngster, who only comes up to his hero’s shoulder.

On Monday, he posted on X that the move was “a dream come true”, yet it has taken more than a decade for Mbappe to make it back to Madrid to play for the 15-time European champions.

Madrid tried again to sign Mbappe in the summer of 2017, but Paris Saint-Germain lured him away from Monaco.

Real made a further attempt to buy him in 2021 and to sign him in 2022, before he agreed to extend his stay at PSG. Now, however, Real have their man.

He leaves PSG at the age of 25, after seven prolific years in which he became his hometown club’s all-time top scorer but never managed to win the Champions League.

It has been a slow goodbye to Paris, but things have usually moved fast for Mbappe in his career, almost as fast as the player himself in full flight.

There are few more thrilling sights in modern football than Mbappe racing at an opposition defence. His pace is astonishing. He is a voracious goal-scorer and is still a player who can dominate the sport for years to come.

Even though PSG had already started the process of building for a future without Mbappe, his departure is a monumental blow for the club.

– Bondy boy –

It is significant move too for Mbappe, the boy brought up in Bondy, the commune in the deprived Seine-Saint-Denis department which makes up the inner north-eastern suburbs of Paris.

Bondy is immensely proud of Kylian, whose father Wilfried coached him at the local club and whose mother, Fayza, was a handball player.

After Mbappe signed for PSG a mural appeared on the side of an apartment block overlooking the canal that runs from central Paris up through Bondy. It was accompanied by the slogan: “Bondy, Ville des Possibles” –- the town where anything is possible.

Mbappe’s upbringing was unlike most in Bondy. He went to a private school, for example. But he is an icon there, and throughout France.

Yet he always wanted to go to Madrid one day, just as they were desperate to sign him.

“Real wanted Kylian but we wouldn’t really have had our bearings there had we gone,” recalled Mbappe’s father, who helped his son, and many other budding players, develop as a youth coach in Bondy.

Instead, the youngster joined Monaco in 2013, Wilfried moving down to the Mediterranean with him.

– Ballon d’Or one day? –

His arrival in the principality did not go unnoticed, with Le Parisien dedicating an article “to one of the great hopes of his generation”, who was photographed holding a Monaco shirt with the number seven on the back.

Mbappe, it said, had already signed a deal with Nike. He revealed his plan to the newspaper, “to one day win the Ballon d’Or”.

He was still 16 when he made his first-team debut for Monaco in December 2015, beating Thierry Henry’s record to become the principality side’s youngest ever player.

Soon he became their youngest ever goal-scorer, and in the following 2016/17 season he starred in a Monaco team that reached the Champions League semi-finals and netted 15 times as they won the Ligue 1 title.

A sensational 180 million-euro transfer to PSG followed at the age of 18.

The next year he won the World Cup, becoming the first teenager since Pele in 1958 to score in the final, as France beat Croatia 4-2 in Moscow.

There was also his stunning hat-trick in the 2022 World Cup final, which France lost on penalties to Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

He has just finished as Ligue 1’s leading scorer for a sixth straight season. He has won the French title seven times, but now he will hope a move to Madrid can finally see him win the Champions League and the Ballon d’Or.

Before that he will be aiming to lead his country to glory at the European Championship in Germany.