Paris Saint-Germain are in the process of reinvigorating their once-ambitious project, and sporting director Antero Henrique is the man Oryx Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) have charged with leading the revolution.
Since his arrival at the start of June, the Portuguese has been tackling mostly internal issues — notably the battle to keep Marco Verratti — but he has now started to turn his attention toward potential summer signings.
After speaking with chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi and coach Unai Emery, Henrique has drawn up a new list of transfer targets, and Monaco sensation Kylian Mbappe is firmly at the top of that selection.
An ESPN FC source close to PSG has revealed that the club have indicated to Ligue 1 rivals that they are prepared to pay €135 million or more to snare the 18-year-old from the Parisian suburb of Bondy.
This ambition — whether the player actually ends up at Parc des Princes or not this summer — shows the French capital outfit are finally moving in the right direction once again.
Since Leonardo’s departure as sporting director back in 2013, PSG have lacked leadership on the non-sporting staff — somebody with a clear vision of the project and the contacts to sign the sort of players Les Parisiens need to close on their dream of UEFA Champions League glory.
Last summer was an unmitigated disaster for PSG, and it ultimately cost former sporting director Olivier Letang his job and made Patrick Kluivert’s short-lived stint as director of football difficult and high in pressure.
Henrique has already started to make changes internally, including dispensing with the Dutchman’s services and bringing in trusted recruitment guru Joao Luis Afonso, so he can now start looking further afield.
Mbappe is not the only player the Championnat behemoth want this summer — they are also very keen on his Monaco teammate Fabinho, AC Milan goalkeeper Donaruma, Borussia Dortmund’s Raphael Guerreiro and Real Madrid’s Pepe.
However, Mbappe is the key figure on PSG’s short list because of what he would represent for their project long-term.
Back in 2011, when QSI first arrived on the French football scene, Al-Khelaifi boldly declared that his club would not invest heavily in ready-made talent but would target the stars of tomorrow and unearth “the new Lionel Messi” instead.
The likes of Verratti, Javier Pastore, Marquinhos and Julian Draxler have come in over the years and ticked those boxes, but the player who has made the most impact was the talismanic Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had already turned 30 before he joined PSG.
The closest thing to a next-Messi-esque talent has emerged on the continental stage over the past few months, and it turns out that he hails from the same city as the French giants, so it makes him doubly attractive.
Mbappe is not just a prodigious talent showing remarkable signs of maturity; he represents an opportunity for PSG to come good on their promise.
In buying the France international, Les Parisiens would be acquiring a star for today and tomorrow, not to mention a potentially iconic figure on and off the pitch, too.
On top of that, they would also be investing in domestic talent and strengthening a Ligue 1 rival financially, making prolonged and fierce domestic competition more likely. PSG’s Champions League quest would only benefit from this.
A new star signing like Mbappe would also aid Henrique in his efforts to convince the likes of Verratti, Marquinhos and Adrien Rabiot that PSG remain ambitious, while they are also one of the few clubs that can — realistically — afford the in-demand attacker.
PSG are at a critical juncture in their pursuit of ultimate continental glory. Although they could almost certainly find a cheaper alternative to Mbappe’s exorbitant value on the pitch, the youngster offers them exactly what they are looking for on and off it.
At the start of what looks likely to be a glittering career, he is worth paying a premium price for because his potential — in so many different senses — is astronomical.
The moment has arrived for PSG to reboot their project. And if they’re successful, and complement this move with some other smart business, the signing of Mbappe could turn out to be one of the best moves made by the club since the arrival of their Qatari paymasters. It could also prove to be the turning point. Instead of just talking about winning the Champions League, they might actually start to challenge for it.
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