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The future looks much brighter for Mbappé than PSG. The Qatari-owned club faces a tough transition

Mbappe’s exit is also not good news for the French league as it negotiates the next set of TV rights with broadcasters up until 2029

Hamari Traore
Kylian Mbappe Centre-Forward of PSG and France and Hamari Traore right-back of Real Sociedad and Mali compete for the ball during the UEFA Champions League 2023/24 round of 16 first leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Sociedad at Parc des Princes on February 14, 2024 in Paris, France.NurPhoto (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The future looks much brighter for Kylian Mbappé than it does for Paris Saint-Germain.

With Mbappé leaving PSG at the end of the season, following former star teammates Neymar and Lionel Messi out of the door, the Qatari-owned club’s project to dominate European soccer has taken another severe blow.

For while Mbappé will have Europe’s biggest clubs chasing him — Real Madrid seems in pole position — PSG faces uncertainty. The cash-rich club’s next steps will be heavily scrutinized.

Who will replace the 25-year-old Mbappé? How will PSG cope without Mbappé given that his goals have helped paper over so many cracks? How does coach Luis Enrique prepare for the rest of this season and the next?

An exasperated Enrique tried his best not to answer at his pre-match news conference on Friday, on the eve of his team’s French league game at Nantes. He flatly delivered one-line responses such as “I won’t comment until the parties concerned have commented” and “No player is bigger than the club.”

When a reporter tried one last time in Spanish, he told her: “I don’t have any information to give you on this subject.”

Mbappe’s exit is also not good news for the French league as it negotiates the next set of TV rights with broadcasters up until 2029.

Mbappé's departure will close the chapter on a local boy who ended up at his hometown club and helped repair its battered image.

Mbappé was 12 years old, playing for his local club AS Bondy in the Paris suburbs, when Qatari owners QSI bought PSG in June 2011. The club was reeling from years of soccer violence, resulting in the death of two PSG fans in the streets around Parc des Princes stadium, and results on the field were poor with no league title won since 1994.

After QSI’s arrival, the stadium’s hostile atmosphere gave way to cushioned seats and major celebrities like Jay-Z, Michael Jordan and Beyoncé. Nine more league titles followed, giving PSG a national record of 11.

Mbappé joined in 2017 along with Neymar for a combined 402 million euros ($433 million). They helped PSG become the biggest club in France.

But QSI really craved a Champions League trophy and a raft of big-name players — including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Angel Di Maria — plus a carousel of coaching changes have not delivered it. The club’s motto “Dream Bigger” was splashed on the team bus but PSG reached only one final, losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich in the pandemic-shortened 2020 edition.

So if they couldn’t win the competition with all these stars over the years, what can PSG do without any now? Will Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, lose patience and pull the plug on the whole project? Will the disgruntled fans, already frustrated at leaving Parc des Princes in the future, have enough of the current leadership and turn on club president Nasser al-Khelaifi?

For the time being, matters remain under control and PSG has a Plan “B” in place.

Perhaps anticipating Mbappé's departure, PSG already started shifting focus somewhat by bringing in more French players like Randal Kolo Muani, Ousmane Dembélé and Bradley Barcola, while fast-tracking academy talents like 17-year-old Warren Zaïre-Emery. Mbappé's younger brother, 17-year-old Ethan, has also broken into the squad.

This represents a considerable shift from chasing star names, and gives local youth players more opportunities than before, but performances may get worse.

Mbappé's goals — 41 last season, 31 already this campaign, a club-record 243 overall — have masked glaring deficiencies in midfield and defense. So many times, he has bailed his teammates out. A look at the statistics of the other forwards does not suggest the same will happen.

Kolo Muani’s season-best tally is 15 league goals, Dembélé's is 12 and the 21-year-old Barcola is unproven. Striker Goncalo Ramos managed 19 goals for Benfica in Portugal last season but he is a backup forward.

Once again, PSG will likely have to import a leading striker to stay competitive.

Here’s a look at some of PSG’s possible targets:

Victor Osimhen, Napoli

The Nigeria striker is the same age as Mbappé and appears the best option. Osimhen is excellent with his back to goal, strong in the air, quick and a good finisher. His 26 league goals helped Napoli win the Serie A title last season. He has a contract until 2026 and knows the French league, playing one season for Lille before joining Napoli in 2020.

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

The livewire Egypt forward is under contract until 2025 and would be 32 if he joins next season. He likely does not have many prime years left but his scoring and passing remain sharp. He has passed the 200-goal mark for Liverpool, but Juergen Klopp’s departure at the end of the season could coincide with his own. However, if Salah goes it could be to the Saudi Arabian league rather than PSG.

Marcus Rashford, Manchester United

The 26-year-old England forward might want to leave Old Trafford after being overlooked by coach Erik ten Haag. Rashford’s form has dipped with only five goals in 29 games compared to a career-best 30 in 59 last season. A move to PSG could prove good for both Rashford and United.

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