Saudi Arabia is making a concerted effort to make its domestic football league one of the most attractive in the world, and it has already attracted two of the sport’s biggest names: Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. However, none of those transfers compare to the magnitude of their pursuit of Kylian Mbappé.
Al Hilal, a top side in the Saudi Professional League, made a bid of $332 million to acquire the services of the France striker from his current club, Paris St. Germain, over the weekend. If the transaction goes through, Mbappé would shatter the record set by Neymar, the Brazilian striker whom P.S.G. spent $263 million for six years ago.
On Saturday, P.S.G.’s formal proposal was sent to P.S.G.’s CEO, Nasser Al-Khelaifi. The document, signed by Al Hilal’s CEO, indicated the club’s willingness to pay and asked for Mbappé’s consent to negotiate remuneration and the duration of a contract. Some media sites stated on Monday that P.S.G. had agreed to their demand.
Three persons familiar with the offer said they would speak only on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss it publicly. These individuals said that first conversations between Al Hilal and Fayza Lamari, Mbappé’s agent and mother, were scheduled to take place early this week. Mbappé, 24, is widely considered the next best player in the world after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and leaving P.S.G. for a team in what was recently ranked as soccer’s 58th strongest domestic league would require the club to commit hundreds of millions of dollars more in salary.
Mbappé already receives a hefty salary from his local club, P.S.G. His annual salary is $36 million, and he was given a $120 million golden handshake during the summer.
Al Hilal seems to be a little opportunistic in their approach. Since Mbappé notified P.S.G. at the beginning of June that he planned to play out the last year of his current term and become a free agent in 2024, the player’s future has been the topic of great speculation.
PSG has made it clear that it would not risk losing such a valuable asset for free, telling Mbappé that he must sign a new deal that will keep him at the club until at least 2024 or risk being sold or sitting on the bench.
The club has spoken with solicitors to determine the validity of its claims. Despite being left off the team for the club’s preseason tour of Asia last week, Mbappé has insisted that he wants to spend the next season in Paris.
The developing rift between P.S.G. and one of soccer’s most brilliant players and most recognisable names is something that more than just Al Hilal hopes to capitalise on.
P.S.G. has received several questions concerning the estimated value of Mbappé. The new owners of Chelsea, which include private equity company Clearlake Capital Group, have contacted P.S.G. to inquire about the cost of the player. The Spanish champions, FC Barcelona, have considered a trade that would send many star players to Paris.
Real Madrid, widely believed to be Mbappé’s first choice, has yet to reveal its intentions. Some P.S.G. officials think an agreement is in place for Mbappé to transfer to the Spanish capital in the summer of 2019.
Al Hilal, which is perhaps not the kind of location that Mbappé, at this juncture in his career, would normally see as his natural next move, thinks that this anticipation may give it with an edge.
Despite the club’s alleged willingness to pay a fortune to get Mbappé to Saudi Arabia, he is expected to depart for Spain after a single season.