The rumours surrounding Manchester United and Kylian Mbappe don’t seem to go away. The French phenom was first linked to Old Trafford in the summer of 2021 when then-manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s targets were reported as being Mbappe, Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, and the still-at-Dortmund Erling Braut Haaland – Solskjaer himself has recently confirmed being very interested in the latter. Fast forward to this summer, and it was reported that Mbappe had two options on the table, with one being United.
Signing the superstar would be a serious statement – which is why prospective new club owner Sheikh Jassim has declared Mbappe top of his shopping list. It would also come at a serious cost. Let’s run the numbers.
Who is Kylian Mbappe?
At this point, the PSG forward needs little introduction. He’ll likely be viewed as the best player in the world when Leo Messi retires, and he may have gotten there already had his efforts in trying to beat Argentina in the World Cup Final succeeded. The Guardian ranked him second in their 2022 survey of the world’s best players last year. By contrast, United’s top-ranked attacker, Marcus Rashford, was 58th. With Rashford finding frustrating form and the uncertainty over Jadon Sancho ever appearing in red again, Mbappe could be both a straight replacement and a massive upgrade.
What’s he worth?
Mbappe has made it clear to current club, Paris St Germain, that he won’t sign a new contract when his deal runs out in 2024. Even the Qatari royals may balk at letting a player they paid €180m (£166m in 2017) to Monaco for at the tender age of 18 walk out of the Parc des Princes for nothing. The recent offer from Al Hilal offered PSG an eye-popping €300m (£259m) as a transfer fee – which they would have accepted – with €200m (£173m) in wages to the player for a single season stay. Mbappe rejected the offer out of hand.
It’s estimated he currently earns around €1m (£865k) per week in Paris. If Mbappe doesn’t regard Saudi Arabia as a serious enough league to be tempted by the riches on offer, parading him in front of the Stretford End would still likely require United to blow their wage structure out of the water, with United’s top earners Casemiro, Varane and Rashford on £350k, £340k and £300k a week respectively.
How much is he worth to Manchester United?
Again, Mbappe’s on-field gifts need no explanation. He’s been Ligue 1’s top scorer in each of his five seasons at PSG. Off-field is another matter. We know it’s a myth that shirt sales pay a player’s fee – United took in over £106m last year from shirt sales, but revenue sharing means the club may see only 7.5% of that. The big money comes from broader commercial endorsements. Mbappe himself is very aware of such. Forbes estimates he earns around $20m (£16.5m) a year from his commercial partnerships, ranking as the third most lucrative footballer behind Messi and Ronaldo.
These range from standard stuff like a boot deal with Nike to more leftfield partnerships. He’s partnered with cutting-edge optical firm Oakley – Mbappé has lent his name to a Signature Series HSTN, an evolution of the Oakley sunglasses first released to the market in 2021. A further arrangement with luxury watchmaker Hublot enhances Mbappe’s status as an aspirational lifestyle influencer and not simply a sporting icon.
This brings him to a much wider market consciousness than simply that of a great footballer. In a recent interview, LeBron James namechecked him first when he was asked his favourite ‘soccer player’, quickly adding “and everyone on Liverpool” (forgive him; he’s a part-owner). United’s status as the third most followed football club on the planet (and a Q3 2023 YouGov poll conducted in the US gave us the top spot there) gives clout for deal negotiation and image rights globally. The NBC contract to show Premier League games has gone from a $1.1bn deal from 2015-2021 to $2.7bn from 2022-2027. Can United leverage their own contracts off the back of English football’s increasingly affluent status overseas?
If only it were still as simple as shirt sales and scarves!
Does it add up?
Of course, every fan is going to say yes, instinctively. Who wouldn’t want to see Mbappe running the channels and cutting inside to bully centre-halves every Saturday? If he brings a Premier League title, that’s worth around £155m in prize money. The Champions League would add another £75m to that pot. So the €1.5m (£1.3m) per week he has currently on offer from PSG could be matched, assuming he replicates the success he’s brought to his current club (at least domestically). PSG’s apparent willingness to accept the fee from Al Hilal shows that they do have a price.
Could a canny commercial department not only mitigate that but profit from it? You’d think it’d have to be worth taking the shot.
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