Kylian Mbappe’s decision to sign a new three-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain is one that promises to have seismic repercussions in the transfer market for many seasons to come.
Real Madrid were caught flat footed by the move, with the 23-year-old superstar having for so long apparently been destined for Santiago Bernabeu.
It is a choice that has generated winners and losers all over Europe; some obvious, some less so...
Winner: Nasser Al-Khelaifi
The mediocrity that has extended through PSG’s season was so seismic that it threatened to extend all the way to the top.
Sporting director Leonardo has gone, but had Mbappe not signed his new contract, the revolution might have reached club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who has been in his post for more than a decade now.
Instead, he finds himself secure in the job for the immediate future, at least.
Without Mbappe, it is hard to imagine PSG building a competitive team in terms of the Champions League for next season.
But with the World Cup winner remaining at Parc des Princes, the Ligue 1 champions at least stand a chance of reasserting themselves towards the top of European football, although the composition of the squad suggests this will be a project that will have to be given more than just one year.
“I’ll be clear, Kylian is going to stay with PSG. We’re never going to sell him and he’ll never leave for free,” Al-Khelaifi said last June. Had he been wrong, he might have found himself out of his post.
Loser: Florentino Perez
It is not often that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is left with a bloody nose, but that has certainly been the case in this saga, the ending of which has caught him almost unawares.
While the initial reaction in the Spanish capital has been one of anger towards Mbappe, it is clear that the situation has been mismanaged by Madrid, whose failure to tie the forward down to a signed pre-contract agreement has bitten them hard.
Not only have Los Blancos missed out on Mbappe, they have also allowed themselves to be beaten to Erling Haaland by Manchester City, meaning that they have missed out on the game's two biggest future stars within just over a week.
Now, Perez faces an important few weeks ahead, in which he will have to plot a very different future for his club, having previously been so bullish over the signing of Mbappe.
Right now, he is left looking more than a little foolish.
Not everyone at Real Madrid will be unhappy with the outcome of this transfer saga.
Rodrygo, for instance, is one who stands to benefit from the absence of Mbappe from the Bernabeu side’s ranks.
The promising young Brazilian has had limited opportunities to impress with Madrid this season, but these will surely be more frequent next season without the ex-Monaco man to battle past.
Rodrygo has sparkled on occasion this season, memorably in the closing seconds of the Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, but needs more first-team football in order to realise his potential.
It took Vinicius Junior some time before exploding into the outstanding form he has displayed this term, and Real Madrid will hope that Rodrygo’s career can follow a similar trajectory to that of his compatriot.
If Mbappe had joined the club, Rodrygo would not have had the space in which to flourish. Now he has been given that chance – and it is one that he must take.
Loser: Karim Benzema's World Cup dream
Shortly before the decision of Mbappe had been made public, Karim Benzema posted an enigmatic picture on Instagram which appeared to be his finger pointing to the Real Madrid crest surrounded in celestial light.
While it is unclear exactly what the forward was getting at with his message, this doubtless changes the relationship between the pair.
Benzema and Mbappe have struck up a fearsome partnership with France, which culminated in Nations League success in Italy last year.
Their understanding in just a few games together has been impressive, and had they been given six months to work together before the World Cup, Les Bleus might have been unstoppable in Qatar.
Now there are suddenly question marks arising over the pair. Will the chemistry still be there between them after this shock decision? Is it something that Benzema can forgive Mbappe for?
These questions could be partially answered during the forthcoming international period, but even if things remain positive between the duo, there will always be a sense that they might have been even stronger on the international scene had they been club-mates too.
Mbappe’s decision to remain at PSG is great news for Liverpool, who might have faced an acute attacking headache of their own had he moved to Real Madrid.
The Reds face uncertainty over the futures of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, whose contracts both expire in 2023. This would have only been magnified if PSG were in the market for an attacke this summer.
Salah, in particular, has been on PSG’s radar in recent years because of their desire to have an Arab star in their team to appeal to potential supporters in that area of the world.
Such a move now appears to be off the table, which is ideal for Liverpool, as with the looming threat of a PSG move, both Salah and Mane had greater strength in any salary negotiations between themselves and the club.
That is now gone - as long as Madrid now do not turn their transfer sights towards Anfield - pushing the balance in favour of the Reds.
Loser: La Liga
La Liga president Javier Tebas was positively fuming when he learned of Mbappe’s decision to remain at PSG.
He wrote on Twitter: “What PSG are doing by renewing with Mbappe for a huge amount of money (who knows where and how it'll be paid) after announcing losses of €700m in the last few seasons and having a wage burden of €600m is an INSULT to football. Al-Khelafi is as dangerous as the Super League.”
Lo que va a hacer el PSG renovando a Mbappé con grandes cantidades de dinero (a saber dónde y cómo las paga) despues de dar pérdidas por 700M€ en las últimas temporadas y tener mas 600M€ de masa salarial, es un INSULTO al fútbol. Al-Khelafi es tan peligroso como la Superliga. pic.twitter.com/sZ1Y1TaSbK— Javier Tebas Medrano (@Tebasjavier) May 21, 2022
Shortly after the decision was made public, La Liga released a strongly worded statement condemning PSG for the money that is being poured into this deal and asked that UEFA punish them for Financial Fair Play (FFP) infractions.
Indeed, this leaves La Liga at an awkward crossroads. Barcelona are crippled financially, more than €1 billion in the red and are seeking to sell assets in order to ease these problems, while Real Madrid have missed out on a star player who might have been a figurehead player for the Spanish top flight for years to come.
They are now left with the question of how they market their domestic game in the absence of the game’s biggest stars.
For two decades, the game’s shining lights have played at either Barcelona or Real Madrid, from Ronaldinho to Ronaldo, Messi to Neymar. Yes, Benzema remains, but he is in his mid-30s now.
It’s official: La Liga is no longer a leading destination for the game’s elite.