PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain will present Kylian Mbappe as its latest star signing on Wednesday, a clear statement that the club intends to take the Champions League by storm after several years of frustration since being taken over by cash-rich Qatari investors in 2011.
Coach Unai Emery is hoping Mbappe helps his team take the extra step into being truly competitive in Europe, after failing to go beyond the quarterfinals of the Champions League since QSI bought a vastly under-performing club six years ago.
Mbappe has been added to a glittering assembly of attacking talent that includes Brazil star Neymar, striker Edinson Cavani, and wingers Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler. In midfield, PSG boasts Marco Verratti, an astute, perceptive passer, and Adrien Rabiot, a technically gifted homegrown talent.
Mbappe is on loan until the end of the season — PSG's way of dealing with Financial Fair Play requirements — but when with the move becomes permanent next year it will cost the club 180 million euros ($216 million). It gives PSG unprecedented status as owning the world's two most expensive players, with Neymar bought from Barcelona for a world record 222 million euros ($262 million).
Uniting Neymar with one of the stars of the future — Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger recently likened Mbappe's potential to Brazil great Pele — is a coup for PSG. They are set to play together away to Metz on Friday night.
He will likely start on the right, with Neymar darting in from the left flank and Cavani —scorer of 49 goals last season — at center forward.
"I'm going to be surrounded by great players," said Mbappe, who scored his first goal for France hours after his move was announced last Thursday. "I have everything to learn and everything to prove."
Spare a thought for last-place Metz, however, having to defend against a front three costing 466 million euros ($555 million).
Neymar's acquisition restricted PSG's ability to sign Mbappe right away, because of UEFA rules designed to curtail excessive spending by clubs each season. It meant that both clubs had to find a way to make the deal possible without affecting PSG's bank balance this season.
Although he grew up in the Paris suburb of Bondy, Mbappe overlooked PSG as a 14-year-old and joined Monaco's outstanding youth academy.
Four years later, it has turned him into the most sought after a teenager in world football.
Monaco turned down 160 million euros ($187 million) from European champion Real Madrid, knowing they could hold out for even more for such a prodigious talent who scored 26 goals in a breakthrough season.
He formed a stunning partnership with Radamel Falcao, as master and apprentice helped Monaco win the league and reach the semifinals of the Champions League, scoring more than 150 goals along the way.
By the end of the season, Mbappe was playing for France. In a glimpse of the future, he played up front alongside Ousmane Dembele against England in a friendly in June.
Mbappe set up the winner for the 20-year-old Dembele, who is now relegated to merely the third most expensive player in the world. He joined Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund in a deal that could rise to 147 million euros ($175 million) with add-ons.
Mbappe's meteoric rise last season was even more remarkable considering he was in Monaco's reserves until October. His father — who is also his agent — had given an interview to sports daily L'Equipe saying Monaco had to play his son, or he would leave.
Monaco did well to listen.
Alongside Mbappe, Falcao regained his best form after more than two years recovering from a serious knee injury, and Monaco made the rest of European football take notice.
HOW WILL MONACO COPE WITHOUT MBAPPE?
As he pushed for a move to PSG, Mbappe sat out three games and Monaco won them all.
Monaco has started at another blistering scoring pace, netting 14 goals in four straight wins.
But it can ill afford an injury to Colombia striker Falcao , who has made a brilliant start with seven goals.
Anyone wanting to learn the art of turning a huge profit should study Monaco, which two years ago sold forward Anthony Martial to Manchester United in a deal rising to 80 million ($95.6 million), having signed him from Lyon for 4 million euros ($4.8 million).
It set a precedent for identifying and later selling precocious talent.
This summer Monaco sold Mbappe, left back Benjamin Mendy, attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva, forward Valere Germain and holding midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko — all key players — for around 340 million euros ($405 million). Only Germain is older than 23.
The profit margin, shown below, is a testimony to Monaco's vast scouting network.
MBAPPE. COST: Nil, came through the youth team. SOLD: To PSG for 180 million euros ($216 million).
SILVA. COST: 15.75 million euros ($18.8 million) from Benfica in 2015. SOLD: To Manchester City for 50 million ($59.6 million).
MENDY: COST: 13 million euros ($15.5 million) from Marseille last season. SOLD: To Manchester City for 57.5 million ($68.5 million).
BAKAYOKO: COST: 8 million euros ($9.5 million) from Rennes in 2014. SOLD: To Chelsea for 43 million ($51.2 million)
Monaco turned down 100 million euros ($119 million) from Arsenal and Liverpool for skilful left-sided midfielder Thomas Lemar.
Barcelona is also reportedly interested in signing a player who cost just 4 million euros ($4.8 million) from Caen two years ago.