Henry: Mbappe's rejection of Real Madrid was vital for PSG, Ligue 1 and French football

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Kylian Mbappe PSG 2022Getty

Thierry Henry says it was vital for French football that Kylian Mbappe stayed with Paris Saint-Germain, with the Arsenal legend admitting that he never believed the seemingly Real Madrid-bound star would remain in Ligue 1.

Mbappe had been linked to Real Madrid for the better part of two years, but the PSG star shocked the world this past weekend by announcing that he would remain with his current club, signing a new deal as his old one was set to expire this summer.

And Henry, a French icon himself, believes that Mbappe's decision is not just a show of strength from PSG, but also a vital moment for French football as a whole.

What did Henry say about Mbappe?

"Obviously, Kylian decided to stay. It's massive for French football," Henry said. "I thought he was going to go, I think everyone thought he was going to go, even including himself.

"I think he changed his mind. I don't know what exactly maybe made him change his mind, because I didn't see what he said, I think it was yesterday night. There must have been something deep into some discussions. I saw that some people were calling him. Apparently, when the president called him to stay, it was crazy.

"Hopefully that shows where PSG wants to go because normally, one thing is sure: when you play for a big club, you don't get away from a big club; the big club gets rid of you when you're old. When you're still in your prime, you don't leave. He decided to stay. He has the club, obviously, in his heart.

"People will talk about what he's going to get in terms of money and power but I would like to think that if you think that long about something, money would have come anywhere anyhow, wherever he went, but he wanted to stay.

"So in France, everybody, everybody was happy because this is what you need to do first and foremost as a team. If you want to be successful, you can't let that guy go. If you let that guy go, you're not going to get a guy like that around the corner, or in the suburbs of Paris you might! Saying that we were all happy that he stayed."

Mbappe's World Cup return

Mbappe's decision comes in the midst of a World Cup year, with France set to defend the title they won in Russia in 2018 when the tournament gets started this winter in Qatar.

France, as it stands, are a threat to remain at the top of international football, with Les Bleus expected to be among the favourites in Qatar once again.

Mbappe remains a key part of that, and Henry says his decision to stay in Paris on the club level could help lift France's domestic league to a higher level, much like its national team.

"It's massive for France as they defend their World Cup championship," Henry sad. "Obviously, they are world champions. I am going to be on the other side working, which a bit weird for me, but you got to work. I work with Belgium, but right now the national team is where it should be and what we have achieved in the past also.

"Where we do struggle is at the club level. We don't often win in Europe. We only have two wins. I think it was PSG that won the Cup Winners Cup against Rapid Wien and then Marseille beat Milan. Other than that we don't have a lot, so if you lose a guy like Kylian, it would be a bit tough for PSG to win one. But thankfully, he stayed.

"They will try obviously, the French national team, to keep their title. I will be working for Belgium. I know I repeat myself but French football, in terms of the national team is at its highest, but it was vital for PSG and for Paris and for French football that Kylian stayed."

Benzema to shine in Champions League final?

While Real Madrid missed out on one French star, their current one will lead them into the Champions League finale this weekend.

Karim Benzema is set to be the main man as Madrid face Liverpool, with the striker very much in the Ballon d'Or conversation leading up to the game.

And Henry earmarked Benzema once again to shine for Madrid as he looks to lead his club team to glory in his home country.

"It's good to have a final of the Champions League in France," Henry said. "It wasn't meant to be obviously, we all know that.

"I think Benzema, for us, representing France, not only him, [Eduardo] Camavinga, and it's not only about Benzema, but the way he's been playing, it's been magnificent.

"If he can perform for Madrid and himself, we all know what's going to happen next for him on an individual level."

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