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Analysis: Real Madrid should tread carefully in pursuit of hot property Mbappe

Posted on July 27, 2017 by admin

Back in 2009 Real Madrid set the world record for the most money spent in a single transfer window as they brought in Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso. The first two were already Champions League and Balon d’Or winners, while the latter duo amounted to the finest striker and ball playing midfielder in the world at the time. It was a statement of intent that sent shockwaves through Europe and cemented Real’s status as gatherers of Galacticos. The record stood for eight years until this summer, when Man City eclipsed that spend by snapping up a gaggle of moderately talented full-backs, an unproven goalkeeper and a decent winger. The transfer market has gone “crazy”, in the words of former Real boss Rafa Benitez, and Chelsea are set to surpass City’s spend by moving for another bunch of players that have never come close to challenging for the Balon d’Or. Not to be outdone, Real are bidding to blow them all out of the water and regain their crown as the craziest cats in the transfer market with a single, market-shattering offer for Kylian Mbappe.

The figures being banded about are nothing short of mind-boggling. The reported agreement in principle with Monaco is £161 million. In simple terms, that equates to two Ronaldos, two Gareth Bales, three Kakas, three Neymars, five Alexis Sanchezes, five Eden Hazards, five Segio Agueros, six Paulo Dybalas, nine Yannick Carascos, 32 Dele Allis and 402 Riyad Mahrezes. It is eight times the price of the entire starting 11 in Leicester City’s title winning campaign of 2015/16. All for a teenager with one full season under his belt. The market has undoubtedly gone crazy, as £40 million bids are being lodged for Gylfi Sigurdsson and the most expensive goalkeeper in history in now an uncapped 23-year-old, but that would be the craziest move of the lot.

It would shatter the existing transfer record paid by Man Utd for Paul Pogba last summer, despite Pogba being a player in his prime. Previously the world record has only been broken for stars with years of experience playing at the highest level, with outrageous quality that has been proven over many seasons for club and country. Pogba, Gareth Bale, Ronaldo, Kaka, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Hernan Crespo and so on were all world-class players when they became record-breaking signings. That has always been the case throughout history, as the honour has been bestowed upon the likes of Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Ruud Gullit, Roberto Baggio and Ronaldo (the other one, of Brazilian World Cup winning fame, who broke the world record twice and went on to become a Galactico himself).

To spend that much money and put that much pressure on an 18-year-old seems foolhardy. Mbappe started just twice in the 2015/16 season and made nine substitute appearances, scoring a solitary goal. Last season was his breakout campaign, but he still only started 17 league games, making a further 12 substitute appearances, and he scored 15 goals. Monaco won the league, but their top scorer was Falcao with 21 goals, while Edinson Cavani, Alexandre Lacazette and even Swansea reject Bafetimbi Gomis also scored more than him. Signing the fifth highest scoring striker in a French league that is miles behind La Liga in terms of quality is a risky move, to say the least.

But it is the way Mbappe lit up the Champions League that has justified his inflated price tag. He started just six games and made a further three substitute appearances, but he played with confidence and flair and demonstrated pace, power and great finishing instinct. He helped put Man City and Borussia Dortmund to the sword in fabulously attacking games, and then breached a Juventus defence that had not conceded in seven Champions League matches as Monaco finally fell at the semi-final stage.

His potential is beyond doubt and his list of admirers is long. If Real do not pounce, someone else might soon and Real could live to regret it. Zinedine Zidane needs a striker after selling prodigiously talented forward Alvaro Morata to Chelsea in a £60 million deal and he has a huge war chest, but it might be a better idea to go for a player that has proven himself time and time again at the pinnacle of world football.

Neymar has a release clause of £192.5 million in his contract, which Barcelona clearly included because it seemed such an outrageously high figure that nobody would activate. No longer does it sound that high. If Mbappe is worth £161 million, why not shell out an extra £30 million or so – the price of Jordan Pickford, or two-thirds of Kyle Walker – and buy a Champions League winner that has captained Brazil and seems destined to monopolise the Balon d’Or in future? It would not be the first time Real broke the world record to sign a player from their arch-rivals, and Figo was a revelation. PSG seem serious about bidding for him, and Neymar may be tempted to quit the Nou Camp in a bid to extricate himself from Lionel Messi’s shadow. But surely Real Madrid and La Liga is a far better platform on which to do so than PSG and Ligue 1. If you like to bet on football you will see that Real Madrid are favourites to win a third consecutive Champions League title, while PSG are rank outsiders. Of course, Ronaldo casts a pretty long shadow himself, but his style is vastly different to Messi’s and the Bernebeu is big enough for the both of them. Real can then always sign Mbappe in five years, if he proves he is the real deal.

Author bio

Martin Green is an experienced sports writer and tipster. He has covered La Liga for many years.

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