Champions League 2023-24: With Mbappe’s future in doubt, PSG to face Real Sociedad in last 16

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“Kilian in Paris! Killian in Paris, Killian in Paris. Extend your deal, Mbappé!”

The message sent by PSG fans to France’s biggest football star could not have been more clear. The World Cup winner responded to the chants with a smile, forgave supporters and held a hand over his heart as he left his team’s training ground on Sunday.

The short video post caused a stir on social media, generating dozens of comments interpreting the player’s gesture as his apparent desire to remain at the club, amid rumors he would join Real Madrid.

Just days before the crucial Champions League round of 16 match against Real Sociedad, this anecdote speaks volumes about the supporters’ anguish at the thought of their best player leaving. But they’ll have to wait a little longer before finding out whether he’ll stay or not.

“When we both decide, we will let you know,” PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said at the UEFA congress last week.

After so many episodes, there is no let-up and the Mbappé saga continues to liven up conversations in France’s sports bars. It is unlikely this will come to a conclusion this week as PSG enter the most important phase of their season with the start of the Champions League knockout stage.

Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring a goal during the Coupe de France. , Photo courtesy: Reuters

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Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring a goal during the Coupe de France. , Photo courtesy: Reuters

With less than five months left on his contract, Mbappe has remained tight-lipped about his future after saying in January that he had not made his decision. The French league’s top goalscorer is a master of communication and is well aware that announcing a substitute before Wednesday’s match at the Parc des Princes would divert attention from the team and certainly hamper preparations.

However, if Mbappé hasn’t made up his mind, another early failure in the competition will surely seal his departure from the club he joined from Monaco in 2017.

Mbappé has never hidden his ambition to win everything. A talented player, he won the 2018 World Cup with France at the age of 19 and led his country to another dramatic final where it lost to Argentina four years later.

But with PSG, apart from countless domestic titles, his burning desire to win the Champions League has so far failed. Despite spending millions of euros recruiting top players, Qatar-backed PSG have crashed out of the last 16 five times in the last seven seasons.

The only Champions League final PSG reached was in the pandemic-shortened format of 2020, when it lost to Bayern Munich. And when PSG crashed out of the tournament last year with a 3-0 aggregate defeat against Bayern in the last 16, Mbappe was clearly frustrated by his team’s limitations.

When he renewed his contract with PSG in 2022, Madrid were already aggressively pursuing him, with Mbappé signing an extension to win the Champions League title. It appears it will be this season or never after the stir caused by his refusal to sign a 12-month extension in the summer.

Mbappe was briefly sidelined by PSG amid a contract dispute, but tensions have since eased and the France star was authorized to talk to clubs in January. According to French media reports, Mbappe agreed to give up several financial bonuses if he joins another club, meaning he will not leave PSG for free.

For now, he seems determined to go as far as possible in the Champions League with PSG. His statistics have once again been excellent this season – he has scored 30 goals in 29 matches in all competitions – and he should have recovered from a minor ankle injury in time to play against Real Sociedad.

“He is doing very well physically. We didn’t want to take any risks because we didn’t need to,” PSG coach Luis Enrique said after Mbappe’s 3-1 win against Lille in the French league last week. “If it was a final he would definitely have played. But on Wednesday he will be 100% available without any doubt.


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