PSG really ARE 'Kylian Saint-Germain'! Why Mbappe only has himself to blame for unintentional rebrand

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Mbappe PSG 2022-23 GFX
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Although the forward has insisted he isn't bigger than the Ligue 1 leaders, his brand and influence are now too inflated for PSG to contend with.

On Thursday, Paris Saint-Germain unveiled their promotional campaign to encourage fans to buy season tickets for next year. The video was suitably cliche, with Kylian Mbappe reading a curated script about what PSG is and means to him. It was all accompanied by shots of children playing football, and the occasional highlight from a tepid 2022-23 campaign for the French giants.

However, notably, neither Lionel Messi nor Neymar appeared in the video, with Mbappe taking centre stage as he talked up PSG's new era.

The player was outraged by the video — despite presumably knowing what it would look like — and took to social media to express his displeasure. Spitting blood, he wrote: "I just took part in the viewing of the club’s re-subscription campaign for the 23-24 season. At no time was I informed of the content of the interview. It looked like a basic interview during a club marketing day... PSG is a big club and a big family but it is especially not Kylian Saint-Germain.”

PSG, PR experts that they are, swiftly scrubbed it from their social channels. Mbappe's complaint, it seems, had a real impact.

By making the statement and forcing his club to delete the content, the star striker inadvertently contradicted his own statement. He insisted he isn't bigger than the club, but as soon as he spoke out against a decision, they swiftly walked it back. Whether he realised it or not, Mbappe paradoxically wielded the power that he claimed he doesn't have.

This isn't the first time that Mbappe's individual influence has outweighed the PSG brand. Indeed, his unnecessary statement was inadvertently the latest in a string of petulant outbursts that prove he is bigger than PSG.

Whether Mbappe will admit it or not, accidentally or intentionally, harmlessly or maliciously, he has turned the club into the 'Kylian Saint-Germain' he insists it isn't.

  1. Mbappe the marketing behemoth

    Mbappe the marketing behemoth

    It is difficult to outright blame Mbappe for all of this; the PSG striker is a product of the system of stardom. At this point Mbappe is a brand - as much a walking marketing tool as a world-class footballer. The power simply comes with the territory.

    In that sense, Mbappe's indignation at PSG is misdirected; the club would be foolish not to milk every last 'like' out of their talisman on social media.

    Much of this is of his own making — Mbappe and his entourage have clearly picked the right sponsors to make him a behemoth of a brand. But his argument in his social media post from Thursday — that he knew nothing about the campaign and does not want to be bigger than the club — could hold true.

    It is plausible that Mbappe the footballer just wants to express himself on the pitch without the off-field noise. Indeed, although humility in elite sport is hard to find, there is always the possibility that he doesn't care much for fame, and wants to focus solely on the game.

    However, a series of off-field actions over the last year suggest that Mbappe knows exactly what he's doing.

  2. A huge contract and huge influence
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    A huge contract and huge influence

    This all started in October 2021, when Mbappe released a very carefully curated graphic novel. Entitled "Je m’appelle Kylian”, the 223-page read chronicles Mbappe's rise to fame and, in visual form, made clear his desire to move to Real Madrid. It was the ultimate way of taking control of his own narrative, and effectively requesting a transfer without uttering the words himself.

    It also proved to be a move of marketing genius. The comic strip made Mbappe desirable, turned him into a powerful brand, and effectively set up the bidding war that would conclude in him penning what was at the time the most lucrative contract in football history with PSG.

    That deal, paying him a base salary of €72 million (£63m/$77m), plus a loyalty bonus of €70m ($75m/£60m) for every year he stayed at the club, allegedly gave Mbappe unprecedented influence over the club. PSG reportedly granted Mbappe input over signings and managerial decisions, handing a 22-year-old — who wanted to leave a few months beforehand — the power to influence every single footballing decision.

    The player has denied that such an agreement was in his contract, and whether he helped to pick Christophe Galtier to lead the side is impossible to know. But his influence over the team and willingness to speak out - often to the detriment of his team-mates - suggest that Mbappe feels untouchable.

  3. Mbappe fires shots on and off the pitch

    Mbappe fires shots on and off the pitch

    Since penning the deal, Mbappe has sent a series of not-so-subtle messages that demonstrate he runs everything at PSG.

    He took a shot at Galtier in an Instagram story in October 2022, including the hashtag "pivot gang" after a 0-0 draw with Reims.

    The comments came a few days after Mbappe expressed his displeasure that PSG refused to pair him with a natural No.9 — the very system that he thrives in for the France national team. Mbappe swiftly deleted the post, but not before Galtier publicly admitted that the club should have signed a central striker to keep Mbappe happy.

    There have been further incidents since. Mbappe wore the captain's armband for PSG in their Coupe de France clash with lowly Pays de Cassel in late January — a decision that made sense in the absence of Presnel Kimpembe and Marquinhos. After the game, Galtier swiftly announced, without warning, that Mbappe was PSG's new vice-captain, making a point of the player's decision to stay at PSG when pressed to explain the choice.

    "He stayed at PSG and deserves to have this armband in the absence of Marquinhos," Galtier explained.

    That all came as a surprise to the injured Kimpembe, who held the role at the time: "I was not made aware of this decision, this is completely false...That said, I will always respect the decisions of the club."

    Chances are, Kimpembe knew who really made the decision.

  4. Growing dissent as PSG flail
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    Growing dissent as PSG flail

    But handing Mbappe the armband for his supposed love of the team is perhaps unfair — especially given some of his actions in recent months. Indeed, Mbappe, for his own part, hasn't shown the unwavering commitment to the badge that his statement, and the vice-captaincy, suggests.

    Just hours before a crucial Champions League clash last year, it emerged that Mbappe wanted to leave the club in January. Football advisor Luis Campos commented on the rumours, thereby validating them. Galtier, for his part, was miffed that Campos had put weight behind what had been considered to be hearsay.

    Then, six days later, well after the transfer rumour mill had spun into overdrive, Mbappe denied that he had ever requested such a thing.

    The whole saga drew the ire of prominent figures in the France football world. Even Thierry Henry, one of Mbappe's most loyal supporters, told the player to put his head down. PSG, meanwhile, simply allowed him to play. Mbappe followed it all by scoring six goals in his next five games — his best run of the season. In the weeks after, Galtier simply praised his star for his goalscoring ability.

    He was at it again after PSG's loss against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Mbappe captained the side as they were handily beaten 3-0 on aggregate, by a team that would soon sack their manager.

    After a toothless performance, Mbappe stood in front of the cameras and asserted that PSG simply were not built to win a Champions League. He quite clearly was not too wide of the mark in his claim, but his observations were perhaps not so innocent following PSG's refusal to sign the striker that Mbappe requested six months prior.

    It was almost as though Mbappe was trying to have the last laugh — even in a PSG defeat.

  5. Mbappe's power laid bare

    Mbappe's power laid bare

    And with their recent promotional campaign, PSG handed Mbappe the spotlight in full. Finally, by featuring him at the centre of the very video that projected the club's future, PSG showed exactly who runs the show. There was no more pretending, the club admitted that they are indeed 'Kylian Saint-Germain'.

    From the PSG perspective, it reads like a plea to keep Mbappe on board. His contract expires at the end of next season. It is possible that by crystalising his importance to the project — or even forcing him into the spotlight — they figured he would be more inclined to stay.

    Certainly, with Lionel Messi and Neymar both potentially departing within the next 18 months, it makes sense to throw everything at their other big name.

    Instead, it seemed to make Mbappe deeply uncomfortable, if not slightly resentful. His social media post, in context, reads more like a player realising his influence has been exposed, that his power — something fairly obvious to even the casual viewer — had been made official.

    Whether Mbappe is truly embarrassed or desperate that his influence be somehow downplayed is not clear. He might just want to be a footballer who wants to win football matches.

    But the player's power has never been a secret. His actions over the past 18 are plain to see.

    The video may no longer exist. But Mbappe's control over PSG cannot be scrubbed from clear daylight.