(Reuters) – Kylian Mbappe said he was convinced last year was the right time to leave Paris St Germain and join Real Madrid but the France forward said the call of home led to him signing a contract extension with the Ligue 1 champions.
Amid Real’s interest, Mbappe signed a contract extension with PSG last week that will keep the 23-year-old tied with the French club until 2025.
Real had pursued Mbappe last year when he had a year left on his contract and though they had reported bids as high as 200 million euros ($213 million) rejected last summer, they were ready to wait and sign him for free this year.
“It’s always been a difficult decision… I wanted time to make the right decision. I didn’t have any issues with pressure because I’ve been living with that since I was 14,” Mbappe told reporters on Monday.
“Everybody knows I wanted to leave last year. I was convinced that was the best decision at the time. The context is different now, in sporting terms and personal terms.
“France is the country where I grew up, I’ve always lived here and leaving wasn’t right… The sporting project has changed as well, that made me want to stay, I don’t think my story is over yet.”
Mbappe said he made his much-awaited decision last week but the club told him not to tell his team mates as they wanted to keep it a secret and surprise the world.
“I made the decision before the call with (Real president) Florenitno Perez,” Mbappe said.
“I have lots of respect for him and for Real Madrid. They wanted to do a lot to make me happy. So I thank them for that… I’d like to thank Real fans.
“I hope they’ll understand the fact I’ve chosen to stay in my country. The reality is I’m French. As a Frenchman, I want to stay here and take France towards the top, take this club and league forwards.”
When asked if he wanted to be PSG captain, Mbappe said: “We have one here, so I’m not taking the armband from Marquinhos, he deserves it. I don’t need to be the captain to give my point of view and set an example on the pitch.”
Mbappe also said nobody had made any fuss about image rights.
“To be honest, we’ve spoken for months about the sporting project and just for a few minutes we spoke about the money and sporting image (rights),” he added.
‘LALIGA ISN’T THE SAME’
LaLiga had reacted angrily to Mbappe’s contract extension, saying it would file a complaint against PSG to European soccer’s governing body UEFA, saying the deal “attacks the economic stability” of European football.
But PSG president Nasser Al Khelaifi said it was a case of sour grapes as the Spanish league had lost its sheen.
“I think the president of our league can respond to that. Maybe it’s a good thing if Ligue 1 is doing better than LaLiga,” Al-Khelaifi said.
“I think this is a positive thing for us and Ligue 1. LaLiga isn’t the same as three or four years ago. I think it’s fantastic for France, we’re keeping the best player in the world in France.
“Last week everyone thought we lost him. We were not sure, to be honest, but I’ve always believed in him and his family.”
Al-Khelaifi refused to reveal if Mbappe’s contract was the biggest in the history of the club but said they had made an “investment in France” by keeping the 2018 World Cup winner.
“(Keeping Mbappe) was a sporting decision rather than a financial one,” he said.
($1 = 0.9384 euros)
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Martyn Herman)