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New York Times
17 Feb 2024
Rory Smith

NextImg:Kylian Mbappé, P.S.G. and the Dangers of a Loveless Marriage

This time, Kylian Mbappé means it. The reports on Thursday of his decision to leave Paris St.-Germain, his hometown team, might have carried with them an unmistakable sense of déjà vu.

They might, uniformly, have carried not a single direct quote from anyone involved, ensuring that all sides have precious room to maneuver should the situation change in the weeks ahead. They might have been copied and pasted, almost verbatim, from the last time this happened, and the time before that. But this is different. This is not a negotiating ploy. This is not a power struggle. He’s going. No, really. On the count of five.

Given the background, of course, the cynical response is also the sensible one. Mbappé has form here, after all. It is less than two years since he and P.S.G. last came to the brink, his boxes packed, his desk emptied, his goodbye card signed.

And then, just as Real Madrid was preparing the Bernabéu for a celebratory unveiling, Mbappé stepped back from the brink. Precisely what persuaded him to stay in Paris in 2022 is not clear. Perhaps it was the intervention of Emmanuel Macron, the French president. Perhaps it was the promise of having an unusual influence on the club’s transfer policy. (Mbappé has always strenuously denied this was the case.)

Either way, there he was, clutching a jersey alongside Nasser al-Khelaifi, P.S.G.’s chairman, repeating the catechism that he could never leave his team, his city, his country so often that, by the time the news conference was over, Mbappé probably believed it, too. There is, as yet, no reason to believe that this scenario will not play out again over the course of the next four to six months.

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