Kylian Mbappe showed on Sunday night that he can be as lethal in a slick black suit as he is in his football kit after he obliterated any pretence that Paris Saint-Germain are among the very best clubs in the world.
Using the platform of his acceptance speech after being named Ligue 1’s outstanding player from the 2018-19 season, he left PSG officials with no doubts that the Parc des Princes side have not lived up to his expectations this term.
Put simply, he believes he is too good for PSG in their current state.
“It’s a very important moment for me, I’ve come to the first or second turning point in my career,” Mbappe, who has netted 32 times in the league with a game still to play, told the assembled dignitaries. “I’ve discovered a lot of things here. I feel that, maybe, it’s time for me to have more responsibilities. I hope that will be at PSG, it would be with great pleasure, or perhaps somewhere else for a new project.”
Forget the 91 points, forget the second consecutive Ligue 1 title and forget the triple digits of goals scored by the team. The second most expensive player in footballing history – at €145 million (£127m/$162m) - behind team-mate Neymar had a message to send and he did so emphatically.
The timing of his attack was as well calculated as the darting runs he makes behind defenders. And just as he has caught opponents leaden-footed throughout his career, he has now done the same with his employers as he dropped a bombshell in the most public arena.
Mbappe’s actions can be read in one of two ways. Either he was issuing a come-and-get-me plea to the likes of admirers Real Madrid, where his desire for “responsibility” could be amply fulfilled by being the man to, finally, replace Cristiano Ronaldo. Alternatively, he was challenging the PSG elite to produce a more coherent transfer strategy to give the club a chance of Champions League success after an embarrassing last-16 exit to a poor Manchester United side.
Whichever it is, the player, who has already gained a reputation for being media-savvy in the fledgling stages of his career, admitted in the mixed zone after the awards that his statement was well calculated.
“For me, it was time to say it,” he said. “When I say something, I think about it before. So for me, it was the right time. And so I said it.”
The ears of Real Madrid, their president Florentino Perez and their coach Zinedine Zidane will have no doubt pricked with anticipation. Meanwhile, a bolt of fear will have shot through PSG supremo Nasser Al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique, whose botched work over the past year has led to this unwelcome showdown.
Mbappe, after all, is PSG’s star man but he is also a well-known admirer of the Bernabeu club.
The former Monaco youth-product is universally considered the brightest young footballer on the planet, overwhelmingly expected to pick up the baton from Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the game’s next superstar.
He also has the trophies and numbers to back those assertions up.
From 42 club games this season, he has 38 goals and 17 assists, while in the last 12 months he has showcased his ability to perform on a global stage by scoring four times during the 2018 World Cup - including twice in the final - as France went all the way to glory in Russia.
In terms of popularity, domestically at least, he eclipses even Neymar.
Born in Bondy, 15 miles from PSG’s Parc des Princes home, he is a local boy with worldwide appeal, a former face in the crowd who holds a genuine affection for the city and its people. He is the type of character who is utterly priceless to a superclub, providing a rare bridge between a group of global superstars and the ordinary season ticket holder.
And yet, PSG are currently a superclub only by virtue of the money that they spend, not by their actions either on or off the park.
It’s been a chastening year for the Parisians, and by that extension Mbappe. With their project already on unsteady ground, PSG cannot afford to lose their most important foundation stone.
A January defeat on penalties to Guingamp – who would later be relegated from the top flight – in the Coupe de la Ligue was, in hindsight, a forbearing of the problems that were to come. The Adrien Rabiot affair swiftly followed, with the midfielder exiled from the first team, and beyond that came their Champions League embarrassment on home soil.
Injuries and suspensions highlighted the flimsy nature of the squad – particularly in midfield where natural defenders were often forced to play - and the poor work done by Henrique last summer.
This further raised the tension with head coach Thomas Tuchel, who did not agree with the ostracising of Rabiot but whose own shortcomings served only to exacerbate the situation and led to a wholly unsatisfactory conclusion to the season.
If Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure to Manchester United in 2016 was the end of the first phase of the PSG project, version 2.0 finds itself this summer at a vital crossroads.
Little wonder, then, that their highly ambitious young attacker has his concerns. Messi or Ronaldo would not stand for such mediocrity so why should their heir apparent?
Having walked the walk of a superstar, delivering telling performances week after week, Mbappe is simply asking his employers to do likewise.
Now is the time for PSG to show that there is substance behind their millions. If not, they risk losing their star man and their project risks turning to dust.