Kylian Mbappe wants out at PSG and Real Madrid are keen, but what’s really going on? ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest.
Kylian Mbappe’s complicated relationship with Real Madrid
Real Madrid aren’t considering yet another move for long-time top target Kylian Mbappe, sources told ESPN, after they were scorned by his last-minute U-turn that saw the star forward snub them to stay at Paris Saint-Germain in May.
ESPN reported on Tuesday that Mbappe, 23, is pushing to leave PSG — just five months after signing a new contract — after his relationship with club executives broke down over what he views as broken promises regarding team tactics and recruitment. PSG sporting director Luis Campos has denied the reports, saying Mbappe has expressed no desire to leave in the January transfer window.
Sources said Madrid are not planning on reigniting their longstanding interest in Mbappe, and while a move cannot be entirely ruled out should he become available, the LaLiga club are now focusing on other targets.
Mbappe was expected to join Madrid on a free transfer last June, bringing an end to a years-long saga which had seen him become a top priority for president Florentino Perez. Yet Mbappe’s late change of heart saw the France international spurn Madrid to extend his deal at the Parc des Princes did not go down well at the Bernabeu.
Mbappe initially cited PSG’s “sporting project” as having convinced him to stay, but later said he had come under pressure from president Emmanuel Macron to continue his career in France. Sources told ESPN that Mbappe now feels that assurances he received about his role in the PSG team — he would like to play alongside a conventional No. 9 and wanted an exit for teammate Neymar — have not been met.
Madrid chose not to bring in an alternative after missing out on Mbappe, putting their faith in Brazil forwards Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes to deliver alongside Karim Benzema. Vinicius, 22, has followed his winner in the Champions League final by scoring seven times in all competitions so far this campaign, while Rodrygo, 21, has contributed four goals in Madrid’s unbeaten start.
In the long term — and when the time comes to replace Benzema, now 34 — the club could revive their interest in Erling Haaland, after their pursuit of Mbappe and Benzema’s career-best form saw them drop out of the race to sign him this year. Haaland has made a spectacular start to life in the Premier League with Manchester City, scoring 20 goals in his first 12 games.
Javier Tebas, the president of LaLiga, told ESPN the league would welcome a player of Mbappe’s calibre if Real Madrid were to press ahead with a move.
“When I talk about Madrid, I do it thinking of most of their fans, who always are looking for exceptional players and top world quality. And Mbappe is one of those players,” he said.
“I can see it’s difficult for the club because it hurts what he did to Madrid in the summer, but I don’t think fans are going to say no to adding such a player to their squad. If Mbappe comes, he will be applauded, cheered, followed. … I am convinced.” — Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez
Real Madrid watch Xabi Alonso’s managerial progress
Real Madrid will be watching Xabi Alonso’s performance as Bayer Leverkusen manager with interest, sources told ESPN, viewing the former Liverpool, Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder as a potential candidate to take charge at the Bernabeu.
Alonso, 40, was appointed by Leverkusen on Oct. 5 as the Bundesliga club look to turn around a dreadful start to the season in which they have taken just five points from their first eight league games. Madrid will be monitoring Alonso’s progress closely, sources said, as the LaLiga giants believe that he fits the profile of a possible future Real Madrid manager.
The former midfielder had the opportunity to play for and learn from some of the most successful coaches of recent years including Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola. Alonso is a familiar face at Madrid, having followed his five-year spell there as a player by managing their under-14s through the 2018-19 season in his first coaching job. He went on to impress in his three years in charge of Real Sociedad’s B team, leading them in 2021 to their first promotion to Spain’s Second Division in 60 years.
Madrid now want to see how Alonso develops in this next phase of his coaching career with Leverkusen, which is his first top-flight appointment. Alonso had an immediate impact, beating Schalke 4-0 in his debut last week, although a 3-0 home defeat to FC Porto in midweek left them bottom of Champions League Group B with two rounds of matches remaining. — Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez
Rob Dawson talks about Cristiano Ronaldo after the Manchester United striker scores his 700th career club goal.
Man United fight off Barcelona interest in Dalot
Manchester United will activate an extension in Diogo Dalot‘s contract to ward off interest from Barcelona, sources told ESPN. Dalot is into the final year of the deal he signed after joining from Porto in 2018 but United have an option to extend his stay until 2024.
Barcelona are one of a number of clubs monitoring his situation, but the 23-year-old will not be available on a free transfer next summer.
Dalot has established himself at the first-choice right-back since Erik ten Hag’s arrival as manager, playing 11 games in all competitions so far this season. The Portugal international is into his fifth season at Old Trafford and approaching 100 appearances for the club. He spent the 2020-21 campaign on loan at Milan but has since become a key part of the squad at United.
Janusz Michallik reacts to Manchester City’s 0-0 draw with FC Copenhagen in the Champions League.
Man City’s focus on centre-midfield in transfer market
Manchester City have made a central midfielder their priority ahead of next summer’s transfer window, sources have told ESPN.
The club are looking at options to strengthen their midfield including Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham. City spent an initial £42 million to sign England midfielder Kalvin Phillips from Leeds United last summer and they are set to invest again at the end of the season. There remain doubts over the futures of both Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva. Gundogan has entered the final year of his contract and could leave for free at the end of the season.