Updated June 5th, 2024 at 10:56 IST

Real Madrid back in the ‘galacticos’ business with signing of Kylian Mbappé

After years without high-profile signings, Madrid went after one of the biggest names in soccer and added Kylian Mbappé to the long list of top players who have been part of the Spanish powerhouse's history.

Kylian Mbappe gestures at the national soccer team training center in Clairefontaine, west of Paris | Image: AP
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A new “galactico” era could be in the making at Real Madrid.

After years without high-profile signings, Madrid went after one of the biggest names in soccer and added Kylian Mbappé to the long list of top players who have been part of the Spanish powerhouse's history.

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The France great is joining a squad that already includes younger stars Vinícius Júnior and Jude Bellingham, putting Madrid on the path to achieve even further success — potentially for years to come.

Madrid on Saturday won a record-extending 15th Champions League title — and sixth in 10 years. Two days later, it announced it was finally signing Mbappé after a few failed attempts to lure in the playmaker.

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“Finally, it’s official, I am going to be a Real Madrid player for the next five years. It’s an immense pleasure, a dream coming true, a lot of emotions,” Mbappé said Tuesday in Metz on the eve of France's home friendly against Luxembourg. “I’m very, very happy (and) relieved, very proud to be joining a club where I’ve always dreamed of being.”

Madrid hadn’t been involved in a blockbuster deal since it signed Eden Hazard from Chelsea in 2019 , but the Belgian playmaker never fully lived up to expectations. The last time Madrid had gone into the market to bring a top star before that was in 2014-15, when it signed Colombia playmaker James Rodríguez and Toni Kroos, who retired at the end of this season. In 2013, Madrid had signed Gareth Bale, and Luka Modric in 2012.

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Karim Benzema, who eventually took over Cristiano Ronaldo’s reign up front in 2018, left last year to accept a lucrative deal in Saudi Arabia. He was replaced by Joselu , an unflashy striker whose goals played a key role in Madrid reaching the Champions League final this season.

Mbappé, who posed for a photo with Ronaldo when he visited Madrid as a 14-year-old, said he received welcome messages from current and former Madrid players, including Ronaldo.

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After Ronaldo left and the club took a chance with Hazard, club president Florentino Pérez mostly stuck with players already in the squad and bet on untested youngsters such as Vinícius and Rodrygo. They were signed at early ages and slowly got incorporated into the main squad. Endrick, the latest Brazilian sensation, is arriving from Palmeiras for the new season and is expected to travel the same path.

Madrid’s “galacticos” had been assembled by Pérez in the early 2000s with the signings of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Brazil great Ronaldo and David Beckham, who all helped the club win one Champions League and two Spanish league titles.

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By not overspending in recent transfer windows — and by signing Mbappé only after he became a free agent — Madrid saved money and moved into position to add even more top players if needed.

“This club is never satisfied," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said after Saturday’s 2-0 win against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium.

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With the talented Mbappé, Ancelotti will have an even more formidable attack.

“It’s the only little thing we’re missing in terms of that clinical (number) nine,” the 20-year-old Bellingham, who made a huge impact in his first season with Madrid, said about Mbappé.

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Ancelotti will have to tinker with his squad to find a place for Mbappé, though. The 25-year-old Frenchman excels on the left side of the attack, where 23-year-old Vinícius has been playing regularly. The other flank is often occupied by 23-year-old Rodrygo, who recently talked about the possibility of leaving Madrid if he didn't feel useful for the club.

If Ancelotti wants to keep counting on Rodrygo, he could have Mbappé flanked by the two Brazilians in a 4-3-3 formation. The coach then would have to sacrifice a midfielder or use Federico Valverde in a more forward role on the right side of the attack.

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No matter where or when he plays, Mbappé is already assured of one thing — a prominent place in the list of Madrid's famous “galacticos.”

 

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Published June 5th, 2024 at 10:56 IST