Kylian Mbappé says that playing football became his “refuge” as he battled with a “tough decision” as to whether to sign a contract extension with Paris St-Germain or join Real Madrid.
The French international forward had long been linked with the Spanish giants, but then on Saturday it was announced that Mbappé was signing a three-year contract extension to remain in the French capital until 2025.
And the 23-year-old admitted that choosing to remain at PSG wasn’t something he took lightly.
“It was a tough decision,” he said at a press conference in Paris. “Football was my refuge.
He added: “I knew there was going to be a time to talk about this, and I wanted to take my time to make the right decision, to make my decision. I didn’t have any issues with the pressure because I’ve been living with that since I was 14.”
Mbappé’s decision – or indecision – about his future had been much discussed over the last 12 months.
The 2018 World Cup winner’s contract was expiring this summer, and with him being a self-expressed Real Madrid fan, the links were obvious.
Even in Monday’s press conference, Mbappé admitted he had been interested in joining the Spanish giant.
“Everyone knows I wanted to leave last year, and I was convinced that would be the best decision at that time.”
But, according to Mbappé, during that time, things changed and he eventually came to the decision last week to stay in France.
“The years pass but they are different, and the context is different now. That goes for sporting terms, and also, personally,” he said. “I was free to make a decision and I know how important that is here in France.
“It is the country where I have grown up. I have always lived here, and leaving my country wasn’t the right thing. There is a sentimental aspect to this. It is my country. The sporting project has changed as well. That made me want to stay here because I don’t think my story is over yet. That goes collectively and individually. I think there are many more wonderful chapters to write here.”
Mbappé’s decision to remain in Paris comes after another stellar season for the young superstar.
His PSG side was the runaway Ligue 1 winner, and he finished as the league’s top scorer and top assister too.
In fact, on the day of the announcement of his contract extension, Mbappé scored a hat-trick in PSG’s 5-0 thumping of Metz.
But with still no European trophies to show, questions remain over whether this new, big-money contract will increase Mbappé’s say in the project or if he’d been promised the captain’s armband.
However, the 23-year-old rubbished these rumors.
“As for the project here, you don’t need special responsibility to be invested in the project. There is always a captain at a club and we have one here, so I am not looking to take over from Marquinhos. He plays a key role in the dressing room and he deserves the captain armband. That is not a priority for me.
“I don’t need to be the captain to give my point of view and set an example on the pitch.”
The news of Mbappé’s new deal at PSG was met with a great deal of anger from Real fans, something he acknowledged.
“I know they are disappointed, I hope they understand my decision,” he said. “They have always accepted me and I have worn that shirt since I was 14. I have to thank them.”
Shortly after Mbappé’s new contract was announced, the Spanish league, La Liga, released a statement saying it will file a complaint about the deal over PSG’s “non-compliance with UEFA’s financial fair play.”
“La Liga wishes to state that this type of agreement attacks the economic stability of European football, putting at risk hundreds of thousands of jobs and the integrity of the sport, not only in European competitions, but also in domestic leagues,” it said.
PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaïfi responded to these comments on Monday.
“Maybe, it is a good thing if Ligue 1 is doing better than La Liga,” Al-Khelaïfi said.
“La Liga isn’t what it was three or four years ago. I have respect for all the clubs, but we need respect as well.
“We have the best player in the world. That’s what matters to us. As for what other people are saying, that is not an issue. I am not listening to that.”