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Kylian Mbappe continues to shine in PSG’s tumultuous season.

Kylian Mbappe Christophe Galtier PSG 2022-23

The Goals

Mbappe is expected to score goals. He has proven, with the French national team, Monaco, and PSG, that he is one of the best strikers in world football. He set high standards for himself at the young age of 17 when he scored 15 goals and provided 7 assists for Monaco in the championship-winning season of Ligue 1. But he has maintained that level of performance throughout the seasons, culminating in a historic hat-trick in the 2022 World Cup final.

However, if we look at the numbers, this seems to be Mbappe’s worst attacking season since 2020. The winger has been pushed back by Florian Balogun, Jonathan David, and Alexandre Lacazette in the race for the Ligue 1 Golden Boot, with Lacazette equalling Mbappe’s goal-scoring record as the season approaches its final weeks.

The basic statistics support the same conclusion. Although Mbappe’s 26 goals and 4 assists in 31 matches are an impressive achievement, his average per 90 minutes is the lowest since 2018, falling below an average of one goal or assist per game.

These are minor complaints, but they might indicate that the player has yet to reach his peak. Injuries have undoubtedly affected him, especially the thigh injury in February. There may also be something to be said about the psychological impact of losing the World Cup final on penalties despite being the best player on the field for most of the match.

Perhaps, therefore, Mbappe’s 30 goal involvements in Ligue 1 and 10 in the Champions League are more impressive considering the circumstances surrounding him. In a chaotic environment, it is not reasonable to expect a complete improvement in the standards already achieved. The fact that he has come close to meeting those standards is an incredibly remarkable achievement.

The goals have come at a consistent pace. Throughout this Ligue 1 season, Mbappe has never gone three consecutive matches without scoring, and most of PSG’s victories have come from matches in which Mbappe has found the net. This may not be Mbappe’s highest-scoring season, but it could be his most reliable season.

Kylian Mbappe captain Bayern Munich PSG Champions League 2022-23

Team Captain

In January, Galtier made a rather surprising announcement that Mbappe would become the vice-captain of PSG in the future. This seemed like news to the previous holder of the position, Presnel Kimpbembe, who admitted that he was not informed by the coach that Mbappe would be the second in command.

However, Mbappe still holds this position and has acted as the team captain in several matches when regular captain Marquinhos was rested or injured. In those matches, Mbappe has emerged as an unexpected leader, often seen motivating a sluggish team.

There could be an optimistic view: that Mbappe is the face of the project and a colossal ego demanding the captain’s armband based on influence rather than deserving it. After all, a bright band on the arm can sell a few jerseys, and “Captain Mbappe” looks great in social media graphics.

However, there may also be some valid points. Mbappe has been appointed as the captain of the French national team, given much preference over more experienced players like Antoine Griezmann. His performances in big matches for both the club and national team – such as the World Cup final or the brace against Juventus in the Champions League group stage – have undoubtedly been inspiring. He also has a deep connection with the club.

Although he previously played for Monaco and still dreams of wearing the Real Madrid jersey someday, Mbappe is a Parisian and was trained at the renowned Clairefontaine Academy in France. He knows this city and surely understands the significance of playing for the club – and the country it is deeply intertwined with. These phrases and clichés in football have been used too often, but for a team that is feeling the identity influenced by a nation thousands of miles away, they can also bring encouragement. Symbols, clearly, can be a powerful thing.

20230330 PSG Neymar Mbappe Messi

Promise

However, Mbappe’s performances have always been influenced by the presence of Real Madrid. It is still an unofficial secret that he wants to play football in the Spanish capital someday, and Real Madrid does not deny that.

However, since he was handed the captain’s armband, Mbappe quickly emphasized that he has no plans to leave – at least not immediately. He reassured the fans in an interview in April when he clearly stated, “I am a Parisian and I have a contract with PSG.”

That statement is an important affirmation within the scope of a season filled with distractions, a temporary promise to ease tensions in Paris. It also helps Mbappe avoid the resentment of passionate PSG fans, especially after the team has consistently delivered poor performances.

However, this affirmation comes with some assumptions. There is an acceptance that PSG will lose Messi at the end of the season, while they are reportedly willing to listen to offers for Neymar. If both these stars depart, Mbappe will become the main star of a team that still wants to compete in the Champions League. This is not a club known for its patience in thanking fans for unwavering support after a defeat to Benfica.

Mbappe may demand support from his teammates. PSG has been linked to his international teammates Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram in recent weeks, while Victor Osimhen and Bernardo Silva have also been mentioned as potential attacking reinforcements. Campos is also believed to want another midfielder and a center-back.

Mbappe has done his part; now it’s PSG’s turn to fulfill their part.

Florentino Perez

Future

However, that investment, if any, may still not be enough. The link with Real Madrid continues to persist, despite Mbappe’s commitments to PSG fans. Recently, there have been rumors that Real Madrid values Vinicius Jr higher than Mbappe, and while that may be true this summer, especially as Los Blancos still need to finalize a new deal with their current left-winger. But in 2025, when Mbappe could potentially leave PSG for free, Real Madrid will have the potential to become the leading candidate, if not the absolute favorite, to sign him.

They were reportedly close to signing him last summer, with Mbappe engaging in discussions with Los Blancos before unexpectedly opting for a bigger financial package from PSG. It was a move that seemingly didn’t have much impact on the atmosphere in Madrid, known for its humility, as they accepted the rejection from Europe’s “hot commodity.” In fact, Madrid president Florentino Perez criticized Mbappe in the media less than a month after he signed a new contract, stating, “This Mbappe is not the Mbappe I want.”

Whether Real Madrid will swallow their pride and overlook their wounded ego remains uncertain. Meanwhile, the leaked information suggesting they prefer Vinicius over Mbappe seems more like a minor tactic than an absolute truth. Vinicius is an excellent football player, but Mbappe simply operates at a different level. Real Madrid probably understands that too.

Here, finally, is a player who scored three goals in a World Cup final, averaging almost a goal per game throughout his career, and helped a notoriously dismantled team win a difficult Ligue 1 title. It’s just a “farmers’ league” if your team is strong enough to prove it.

Mbappe may have saved PSG this year, but it’s hard not to see him ending up at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu someday.

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