Kylian Mbappe is a disruptor playing a dangerous game unbefitting of that No. 10 shirt

Andy Bollen
Kylian Mbappe in a 10 shirt for France
Kylian Mbappe in a 10 shirt for France

The writing was on the wall for Kylian Mbappe months before PSG went to Japan without him; he has long been threatening to play to rule as he wound down his contract. He will surely use the offer from Saudi Arabia as a threat to get to Real Madrid, who will come in when PSG are so desperate to sell that they will take any reasonable offer.

But let’s just pause. Let’s look at the figures. They are just ridiculous. Al-Hilal have tabled a €300m offer to PSG as well as €700m to the player – if we take off two months’ holiday, that’s €70m a month. Mbappe is a football man and I firmly believe he knows this is the wrong move.

Mbappe is one of the best players in the world right now. He is also a World Cup winner. In my latest book, The Number 10: More than a Number, More than a Shirt, when I had to put together a squad of 18 players who were able to wear the number 10 jersey, I left him out, and it was solely because of his nature and mentality.

He is a disruptor. He undoubtedly has the ability and the game to play the 10 role but the wearer of the iconic shirt has to have something more. They need to be a 100% team player who can single-handedly turn games around by dragging their team over the line and selflessly give for their club and nation.

I suspected he would down tools and start a revolution until he got his way. I’ve always wanted to be a cartoonist and if I had the ability, I would sketch a baby Mbappe in a pram throwing his very expensive toys out of it.

Like other French legends such as Michel Platini, Eric Cantona and Nicolas Anelka he has a strong will, a big personality and knows his mind and value. He pretty much demands where he plays in any side (on the left supporting a striker) but he is a negative presence in the dressing room.

One of the few coaches he can truly play under is his national boss, Didier Deschamps. He allows him to play up front, not to worry about defending and in fact encourages it. Deschamps is clever too, a pragmatist; goals win games.

He is brilliant but he can’t and or won’t defend. He is not a team player. He does not follow and support his full-backs enough. Instead of chasing the money, Mbappe’s ‘people’ might consider a sit-down and a chat not about the right deal or club but the right coach.

To the outsider it looks like he wants his move to Madrid and if it doesn’t happen he is prepared to run his contract down in Saudi Arabia before rocking up to the Bernabeu for the 2024/25 season. What sort of club would Madrid be to accept that? At Madrid, Vinicius Paixao de Oliveira Junior is in his position. Will Vini Jr. be prepared to make it work? Will it matter?

His exclusion from the Number 10 book is sugar-coated in a polite apology in the introduction; I just felt he was too young and those around him were failing in their care or perhaps he was too capricious to handle.

There was also something about his nature and attitude that made me think this would end in one of two ways. Either he would become another who promised so much and failed to deliver, or he would get away with it like Johan Cruyff at Ajax. In 1973, to procure the move he craved to Barcelona when Ajax wanted to sell him to Real Madrid, Cruyff held out and won. Mbappé is at that level of power but the gamble is massive.

Off on a tangent (if you read my books you’ll know that’s what I do), one thing we – as in all good football fans – are sure of is that the game is over. With this offer, football has officially gone doolally.

By sheer coincidence, I was watching a show on BBC Scotland called Icons of Football and it featured former Celtic star Charlie Nicholas. Nicholas was at the time playing superbly and considered the finest player the club had produced since Kenny Dalglish. He was attracting serious interest from Liverpool and Arsenal. Knowing teammate Frank McGarvey was on over £300 a week, Nicholas thought he was due a pay rise; he was only earning £90 a week and was offered a £10 rise. He joined Arsenal for £3000 a week.

Mbappe is a modern player in a game that feels like it’s out of control. He is a bona fide superstar. You can clearly see that he thinks he deserves his place at Madrid after six years at PSG. He will leave as the club’s record goalscorer but he will leave with a kick up the backside rather than a hug.

Who knows how this will unfold? By the time I end this sentence, he could be in an Al-Hilal jersey. My gut instinct is he’s playing a dangerous game and has no intention of heading to Saudi. Real Madrid are likely to hold out and get a reduced price just to take him off Paris Saint-Germain’s hands.

But he’s still not making my book, even though he won the World Cup for France in that 10 shirt.

The Number Ten: More Than a Number, More Than a Shirt – by Andy Bollen – is available now.