Au revoir, Kylian Mbappé: How should we judge his PSG legacy?

In case you missed it a couple of weeks ago, Paris Saint-Germain played and won their last Ligue 1 game of the season, a 2-0 win at Metz. Kylian Mbappé was not there. Instead, he spent his weekend on the beach in Cannes, at the other end of the country, drinking cocktails and sunbathing with his PSG teammate Ousmane Dembélé.

After that, PSG faced Lyon in the Coupe de France final to end their overall season and won 2-1 to clinch yet another a domestic treble. In what was Mbappé’s last-ever game and trophy won with the club, he wasn’t able to contribute a goal or an assist. it was a strange way to end his seven years at the club.

Mbappé will be remembered as the greatest player to have ever worn a PSG shirt. He goes into the pantheon above Mustapha Dahleb, the flamboyant Algerian winger of the 1970s and early 1980s. He’s above Safet Sušić, the Yugoslavian maestro of the 80s, and his teammate, striker Dominique Rocheteau. He is above the heroes of the 1990s such as Valdo, Raí, David Ginola and George Weah.

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He’s above the genius of Ronaldinho, above the goal-scoring machines Zlatan Ibrahimović and Edinson Cavani. He’s even above Neymar and Lionel Messi, whose time with PSG ended unsatisfactorily. The list can continue, but Mbappé will always be at the top of it.

While he leaves on awkward terms, Mbappe was bigger and better than anyone else. The amount of goals (256), assists (96), games (307) and trophies (14) in seven seasons is mind-blowing. He overtook Cavani’s record as top goal-scorer in the club’s history with surprising ease. He also gave PSG fans, and football fans in general, some incredible moments: hat tricks (even scoring five in a game on one occasion), spectacular finishes, lightning pace, and amazing dribbles. He gave a feeling of power, dominance, confidence and superiority whenever he was on the ball.

Not all PSG fans warmed to him, however; because he was so clinical in everything he did in football, some felt he was not always the most sincere. With Mbappé, on and off the pitch, everything is always calculated, weighted and thought after. It feels like he never lets himself go completely. He is always in control of everything, whether it’s his emotions, his talent, his present or his future.

Perhaps, the larger issue is that for all the domestic titles, the Champions League still eluded him. A lot of PSG fans, looking back at his seven years at the club, remember and regret his chance missed against Bayern Munich in the 2020 final, just before half-time, when the score was still 0-0.

It was a chance he had converted hundreds of times in his life, only in that moment to hit the ball right at Manuel Neuer. It is probably his biggest regret as a PSG player. It was never going to be a perfect ride, but winning a first-ever Champions League title for his hometown team would have taken his status to another level.

Or, maybe, the dwindling love from the fans simply came from the fact that Mbappé has been flirting with Real Madrid throughout his seven years in Paris. Los Blancos were never far away, the transfer links were reported every summer, and the threat of Mbappé leaving Paris for the Spanish capital felt constant. It surely didn’t help the relationship between the player and most of the fans.

The attachment never fully felt there from Mbappe’s point of view, either. Fayza Lamari, his mother, said after leaving the farewell party organised by his son for 250 guests that “the seven years in Paris had been magical.” There was definitely some magic in there, and Kylian the teenager became a man in Paris. Between the summer of 2017, when he arrived from Monaco at the age of 18, and the summer of 2024 when he’ll leave as a 25-year-old to join Real Madrid, he has become a better player, a World Cup winner, and developed his body and his football IQ.

He will always owe a lot to his beloved PSG, who in turn will always be grateful for what he gave them over seven years — six Ligue 1 titles, four Coupe de Frances, two Coupe de la Ligues, three Trophée des Champions — but the story has come to an end now, and what a story it was.