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Kylian Mbappe leaves PSG as their biggest talent – but not universally loved

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Kylian Mbappe leaves PSG as their biggest talent - but not universally loved

Ultimately, Kylian Mbappé’s farewell at the Parc des Princes was a reflection of his time at Paris Saint-Germain.

There was another goal, another trophy and one step closer to a new record: the first player in the history of French football to win the top-level Golden Boot in six consecutive seasons.

There was a tifo put together by the club’s ultras in the Auteuil Stand before kick-off to honor his legacy – an image of his signature celebration, with arms folded. There was also a banner that read: “Child of the Paris banlieue, you became a PSG legend.”

But this match was not a full celebration of his seven years in Paris. Yes, there were songs praising him, but also a few boos and whistles before kickoff when his name was read out. The evening would end with a trophy lift, but also with a defeat to Toulouse, only PSG’s second defeat of the campaign. Luis Enrique called it their worst performance of the season.

Considering the impact Mbappe has made on PSG, his farewell was disappointing. The emphasis of the evening was mainly on the title win and not on Mbappé’s farewell. PSG celebrated their twelfth win in Ligue 1, a feat that brings bright light to the pinnacle of French football, now two ahead of Marseille and Saint-Etienne. It was also the club’s 50th major trophy. It was greeted with a glitzy celebration, orchestrated by celebrated Parisian composer Thomas Roussel.

Mbappe’s announcement – ​​made in a four-minute video via his social media channels on Friday – simply came too short notice for much else. There was no contemporaneous statement or post from the club. They were surprised.

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But Mbappe could not leave PSG without clarification before the final home game of the season. The weeks of innuendo about his future could not continue. He did not reveal his destination, which everyone in Paris expects to be Real Madrid, but he did confirm that this time it was really a farewell.

How he would be received by the Parc des Princes for the last time would always remain a point of interest. Would supporters cheer him on? At first glance it seems strange not to salute the club’s greatest goalscorer, but this is PSG and this is Mbappe, and the past seven years of off-field drama probably had no impact.

HThe farewell video had hints of that; Mbappe thanked almost everyone at the club, including all his former coaches. However, there was no reference to club chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, nor to former sporting director Antero Henrique.


Kylian Mbappe and the PSG team celebrate their Ligue 1 title victory (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

Last season alone will have contributed to that. After informing the club that he wanted to leave at the end of his contract, rather than activating an option to extend it for another year, he was told by PSG that he must extend his contract or be sold. He was then unceremoniously dumped into the ‘bomb squad’ and left out of the club’s pre-season tour of Japan and South Korea.

It was just the last episode of the soap opera Mbappé-PSG. In 2022, he looked set to sign for Real Madrid but made a late U-turn and signed a lucrative contract. A year earlier, the summer was dominated by speculation about his future. Much of his time at the club felt to some extent like a very long goodbye. That can be tiring.


The genius of Kylian Mbappé


Mbappé may have been aware of that. On Friday, after his announcement video, Mbappe attended a barbecue with the club’s ultras at the Parc des Princes. From the outside, it seemed like an act of goodwill before his departure. Last season, Mbappe was part of a team in turmoil as they received their Ligue 1 title medals, but he avoided the worst and his relationship has been rebuilt over time.

Throughout this season he has not been harassed by the ultras, despite off-field speculation. On Sunday there was a loud whistle for kick-off, but afterwards, during the trophy lift, he received a triple name call from matchday announcer Michel Montana. After the warm-up there was also the tifo. Mbappe walked over to greet the ultrasounds and watched as the tifo was raised in front of him. It was accompanied by Mbappé chants.


A giant tifo with Mbappé’s image is displayed before kick-off last night (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

That was fitting, because despite everything, PSG will still remember him as their best ever Parisian. Born in Bondy, on the outskirts of Paris, he returned to the capital to break a string of records for the club, all before his 26th birthday.

His goal against Toulouse took him to 256 for the club, extending his position as the club’s all-time top scorer. For PSG he also has the most goals in Europe, most hat-tricks, most doubles and most goals in one match (five). He helped France win the World Cup, scored in consecutive World Cup finals, including one hat-trick, won the tournament’s Golden Boot and later became captain of the national team.

That is his sporting legacy and the fans will remember him for that too. His goal on Sunday was a prime example of this, with a burst of incomprehensible pace, combined with sublime control and an ice-cold finish. But he also played in an era at PSG that will not be remembered so favorably.


Mbappé celebrates his last competitive goal for PSG, against Toulouse (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

It has been a time of politics, player power and, fundamentally, unfulfilled ambitions for the club in the Champions League. It is a period that ended in disillusionment, a sentiment defined by fan protests last summer, and which is now beginning to disappear as the club turns away from superstar players towards a new era and a new identity.

In time, Mbappe will certainly be remembered more fondly, as perhaps their best ever talent and a club icon.

But for now, PSG and their supporters are eager to start a new chapter.

Fans will look back on his greatness with fondness, but, as Sunday illustrated, the memories of the off-field noise will linger. The feeling with which his farewell was greeted was not entirely cordial. ddespite all that has been achieved.

(Top photo: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)