Mbappe substitution strop suggests Real Madrid target is growing impatient at PSG

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Thomas Tuchel Kylian Mbappe PSG
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The World Cup winner is no closer to signing a new contract with the Ligue 1 champions and recent actions point to a future at Real Madrid

On the evening of May 17, 2017, Kylian Mbappe took everyone by surprise.

Not because at 18 years old he had scored one of the goals in a 2-0 win against Saint-Etienne that secured Monaco a shock Ligue 1 title, but because he did not join his team-mates as they went out to celebrate. He went home to bed, ready to train again the following day. It showed an astonishing level of maturity and drive from a young man.

The footballing public has seen Mbappe grow from a boy into a man, and then from a man into a World Cup-winning superstar, shattering numerous records along the way on both a local and global scale.

When hometown side Paris Saint-Germain signed him weeks later, he became the world’s second most-expensive footballer ever, behind only team-mate Neymar, having moved back to the capital city for €180 million.

Not even three years on, there are signs that he is starting to outgrow PSG.

They have, as yet, failed to keep pace with a man who wants his career to move forward with the same lightening speed that he does on the field.

Setbacks have been rare and altogether minor, yet when they have arrived, such as his substitution during the weekend’s 5-0 win over Montpellier , they have been greeted with frustration. Only then are Mbappe’s 21 tender years belied.

For PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel, this is a source of immense frustration.

For Mbappe - who already had a goal in a fixture that was already won - to exchange words with the coach on the touchline in front of a packed stadium with his hand cupped over his mouth was a needless show of disrespect to a man simply seeking to preserve his gem for more important moments ahead. Having suffered a hamstring injury earlier this season, the France star should be appreciative of that.

If his hunger for goals and minutes are admirable, he should recognise that PSG are in the midst of a 44-day run that will see them play 14 times, culminating in a vital Champions League trip to Borussia Dortmund. Tuchel has greater priorities than racking up a cricket-score tally against an opponent that had long since submitted.

Thomas Tuchel Kylian Mbappe PSG

But player power has been endemic at the Parc des Princes for years and the relationship between the pair has long been frosty, with the striker having previously shown his displeasure at being replaced. 

Rather than wounds being healed, reports now suggest that the rift between the duo is instead growing, with the German never having publicly shown Mbappe the affection that he has afforded for the likes of Angel Di Maria in the past.

With that in mind, Mbappe is quickly approaching the first crossroads in his career, and he has made sure to let potential suitors know that his head coach be turned.

“I came here at 18 years and I was a talent but I was not a superstar. But now I’m a superstar,” he told the BBC . “I have to stay focused on PSG 100 per cent and at the end of the season we’ll see.”

The Parisians want to extend his current contract, but due to the complicated relationship with the coach, that could prove a difficult task. It is a situation that is important for them to resolve, for by the summer of 2021 Mbappe would have much more leverage in any deal, aware that he could depart 12 months later for nothing – an unthinkable situation.

Real Madrid, of course, remain a massive draw for a player whose shirt sales for the capital club total more than any other, Neymar included.

One of the earliest images ever to emerge of Mbappe shows him sitting in his room as a teenager with his walls plastered with posters of Cristiano Ronaldo in the famous white shirt. Furthermore, the presence of Zinedine Zidane, who has previously tried to talk the youngster into making a switch to Spain, remains an obvious attraction.

Mbappe on Zizou

“If you're French, obviously you would have grown up with Zidane as your idol. After that, it was Cristiano Ronaldo, who I have been fortunate enough to have faced as a rival, at club level and with the national team,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport in January, referencing the two Blancos greats then subsequently Brazilians such as Kaka and Ronaldo who have also turned out for the Santiago Bernabeu side. 

By name dropping Zidane, though, the youngster has strongly suggested that he holds more respect for the Madrid coach than he does his own back home. Little wonder, then, that Tuchel is struggling to control him.

The ostentatious flirting continued after Real pinched the derby against Atletico Madrid 1-0 at the weekend, as Mbappe liked a post on Karim Benzema’s Instagram page celebrating the success. 

Coincidence or transfer hint, Madrid would be foolish not to explore the possibility of capturing a player who is a known admirer of their brand.

“If he's sending us signs, we have to be alert to receiving them,” Madrid defender Nacho warned after Mbappe’s late-January media offensive.

And it seems that Zidane has been sensitive to Mbappe’s hints as he explained when asked about the player’s admiration: “Now he’s the example. We are examples for those who play football. I’ve been an example because some people liked the way I played.”

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There are, of course, other possibilities. Liverpool have been mentioned in dispatches and Mbappe has made clear his respect for the Anfield club and what they have achieved under the stewardship of Jurgen Klopp. But while the admiration is there, the love is not.

“I just wanted to follow my dream,” he told the BBC of suffering the wretch of leaving Paris and his family as a young man to move to the Monaco academy.

One suspects he would not find it so tough to leave Tuchel behind in the French capital to one day pursue his ambition of playing for Real Madrid. It may only be under a figure like Zidane, who he treats as an idol, and at a setting as grandiose as the Bernabeu that he feels truly at home.

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