Why Kylian Mbappe is the biggest financial risk in football history
There was a time when record transfer fees were paid for established names, but Paris Saint-Germain are now investing heavily in potential.
The final details are being agreed, but Kylian Mbappe is set to become the most expensive teenage footballer in history when he makes his impending switch to Paris Saint-Germain. The Parisian club have already made transfer history with the acquisition of Neymar this summer, but while the eye-watering fees are similar, the circumstances of the two deals are very different.
Mbappe is a prodigious talent, but he is also just 18-years old. His form for Monaco played a key part in the side from the Principality lifting the French league title last season, but it was his performances in the UEFA Champions League that confirmed his status as one of the most wanted players on the planet.
The teenager has the complete range of attributes to one day make him on the best in the world, and his services are very much in demand as a result.
Born and raised in suburbs of Paris, the chance to return home has certainly turned Mbappe's head during the current transfer window. The deal with Paris Saint-Germain is not without controversy, as he will join the club on an initial loan deal.
PSG then have an obligation to pay the agreed price of around €180m next summer. The deal allows Paris Saint-Germain to circumvent UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations having already stumped up €222m for Neymar a few weeks ago.
The implications of such deals are set to change the face of football forever, but while the financial figures quoted have been heavily questioned, it is the difference in the two deals, and the difference in the two players, that really needs to be discussed. There is no doubt that Paris Saint-Germain have the ambition to achieve domestic and European domination in the very near future, and while they are building a side capable of realising such success, they may have jumped the gun in signing Mbappe this way.
Neymar is still only 25-years old, but he has been playing senior football for the best part of the last decade and has proven himself consistently for both club and country. He has almost 80 international caps for Brazil, and after making headlines with his incredible goal record for Santos, he went and bettered it at Barcelona. His ability is not in question, but he is also is a marketable dream, and his status in the world game makes him a lucrative commodity for any club to have at their disposal, both on and off the field.
The fee paid for the services of Neymar was a calculated investment based on proven ability and his marketable value. However, the deal agreed for Kylian Mbappe is based on nothing more than potential, and there is no guarantee that the French star will develop into the player that many believe he can be. He has all the tools to be a star, but with only one full season to judge him on, Paris Saint-Germain are taking the biggest financial risk in football history.
Mbappe will firstly have to live with the hype and expectation that his price tag demands. He will need to produce from the start, and keep producing throughout the course of the campaign. However, while he was the unknown teenage prodigy last season, clubs across Europe will now be well-aware of his talent and will have plans in place to limit his impact when they come up against him.
It is not unusual for young players to make an immediate impression as youthful exuberance coincides with their first opportunity in the professional game. Inevitably, they will find their level in their second season as senior football becomes the norm, and it is difficult to predict just how good Kylian Mbappe will be as he learns to cope with a whole new environment and pressure.
Also, unlike the established Neymar, Mbappe is pure potential. He hasn't done anything yet to command such a fee, and the investment by Paris Saint-Germain is a significant risk. If he does underperform next season, the club will still have to pay what would then be considered to be a massively overpriced transfer fee, but that is the situation they have put themselves in through their impatient desire to reach the top.
The deal for Neymar has already impacted across the rest of Europe, and significant fee have changed hands for the services of players that a couple of years ago would never have commanded such figures. However, no club has ever spent anything like Paris Saint-Germain are about to do on potential, and there has never been a risk like it in the history of the game.
But that is the nature of the beast, and clubs must now take such drastic action to stay ahead of their rivals. The financial rewards for success are reflective of the financial risks taken to achieve them, and Paris Saint-Germain had opted to leave Kylain Mbappe develop elsewhere, then other financial powerhouses like Real Madrid and Manchester City would have had no hesitation in making their move. These are exciting times in the French capital, while their actions could have a massive impact on the game for years to come.