Kylian Mbappe has “no excuse” for not signing a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain, according to club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
And yet with little over a week of the transfer window remaining, the uncertainty over the superstar forward's future remains the stain on an otherwise dreamy summer for the Parc des Princes outfit.
Rarely has such a collection of star names been assembled over the course of such a short period. Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum and, of course, Lionel Messi have all arrived in the French capital in a period of under two months.
Such armament was designed to persuade the 22-year-old of PSG’s strength, putting to bed any doubts Mbappe had over the club’s ambition and Champions League-winning capabilities.
“What I want to do is win, to feel like I'm somewhere where I can do that in the sense that there's a solid project around me,” he told Canal+ back in May when the first genuine stirrings of his discontent were made public.
“I eat football, I live football and so the sporting project is essential.”
Whatever Mbappe’s feeling towards the practicalities of playing in a top-heavy, defence-shy front three with Neymar and Messi might be, such a Galactico transfer window was designed to prove that PSG’s pulling power is, for now, unrivalled.
His demands had apparently been met by the club, who very publicly put the ball back in the player’s court.
“We have the most competitive team in the world right now. So there is no excuse for him now. He can't do anything else but stay,” Al-Khelaifi said at Messi’s introduction when asked about the superstar youngster.
And yet even that may not be enough to keep the World Cup winner beyond the end of his contract in June 2022.
Mbappe is yet to make his next move, but his silence on the matter has been profound. There has been no suggestion that a new contract is just around the corner, or even on the horizon.
The noise around his future, meanwhile, has understandably been constant. The media chatter, though, is something that has not made him waver on the field.
Indeed, his performances at the start of the Ligue 1 season have been excellent, as he has delivered one goal and two assists in three matches.
Showing form that has arguably surpassed any sequence of games he produced in a Covid-hit 2019-20 Ligue 1 season, he has not played like a young man with his mind elsewhere.
Nevertheless, Mauricio Pochettino’s carefully worded answer during his side’s pre-match press conference before meeting Brest on Friday only served to highlight just how precarious the situation is.
“He is our player and I see him staying during the season that we are starting,” the Argentine said, artfully dancing around the more pertinent issue of the player’s expiring contract.
The ego of PSG means that they are not about to buckle and sell a player they see as being essential to the future of their project – even if it means losing him for nothing.
If Mbappe goes, they aim to make it absolutely clear it was solely the player’s decision. This is a club, after all, that is not used to anyone telling them what they must do since QSI took charge in 2011, and appears to have taken particular delight in making Barcelona their plaything.
In any case, PSG are unlikely to receive an offer from cash-strapped Real Madrid that is worth considering. This gives them just a single option: to continue to chip away at Mbappe’s resolve not to sign a new deal in a bid to avoid losing him for nothing next summer.
The player’s bluff has, for now, been called in the transfer market. PSG have put together a team the individual strength of which has not been seen in years, begging the question whether Mbappe’s stubborn position is less about being in a star-packed team and more about grabbing a greater share of the spotlight, which he has had to split with Neymar since arriving in Paris.
With Mbappe’s situation likely to remain unresolved beyond the end of the transfer window, his future promises to make as many headlines as the brilliance of Messi and the all-star cast that PSG have assembled.
This is a stain that will not readily be shifted.