Mbappe stays at PSG: Real Madrid reeling but still have options to net a superstar striker

By Sports Desk May 21, 2022

Real Madrid will have been left shaken by Kylian Mbappe's decision to snub them in favour of a new contract at Paris Saint-Germain.

It was common knowledge that Madrid wanted to bring in Mbappe and shape their team around the France striker for the next decade.

The Spanish champions have been used to getting what they want, but this time they have failed to land their number one target, with PSG's financial muscle surely a major factor.

Now Madrid president Florentino Perez must consider the club's next course of action. Do they rely on Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior next season, or has there been a back-up plan in case Mbappe reached this decision?

Here, Stats Perform looks at players that Madrid could consider if they remain intent on bringing in a forward in the close season.

Richarlison (Everton/Brazil)

After five years spent fumbling around mid-table and the lower reaches of the Premier League with Watford and latterly Everton, Richarlison seems long overdue a move to a club where he might challenge for honours. The 25-year-old has previously been linked with Madrid and Barcelona, and more recently Manchester United, and he would bring a roving threat to any side he joins. Capable of playing wide or in the centre, or flitting between roles, Richarlison has reached double figures in Premier League goals in three of his four seasons with Everton, and in a World Cup year this could be the ideal time to move for the striker. Should he dazzle at Qatar 2022, that price tag could go skywards.

Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain/Brazil)

PSG were desperate to retain Mbappe, but would they feel the same way about Neymar? Five years into his PSG career, Neymar is now 30 years old and this is the first season when he has managed more than 20 league appearances for the Parisians. Injuries have disrupted his stay at the Parc des Princes, and while he remains a wonderfully gifted player and a joy to watch at times, if PSG want to recoup a chunk of the huge outlay that brought him to Paris from Barcelona, now might be the time for that. It would be an impudent approach for Madrid to make, and Neymar's Barcelona history adds a further complication, given the rivalry, but the player himself may be tempted.

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Poland)

If Madrid have a statement signing in mind to ease the pain of missing Mbappe, then joining the race for Lewandowski and gazumping Barcelona would be one way of going about that. Lewandowski has told Bayern he wants to leave, and ideally before next season. Barcelona are certainly interested, but their financial problems are well known. Could Madrid be better placed to land the highest scorer from Europe's top five leagues this season? Lewandowski hit 50 goals in 46 games across all competitions for Bayern, with Madrid's Benzema second on the list and Mbappe third. Whether Madrid would want a player who turns 34 in August when they already have a 34-year-old frontman in Benzema is a moot point.

Paulo Dybala (Juventus/Argentina)

Mbappe would have arrived in Madrid on a free transfer, given his contract at PSG was coming to an end. If their priority is to pick up a forward without an initial transfer fee outlay, then Dybala becomes an option. Roma and a host of Premier League clubs have been linked with the Argentina international, whose Juventus contract is expiring. He has scored at least 15 goals in five of his seven seasons with Juve, and would bring a creative presence to Madrid, and bundles of trophy-winning experience.

Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig/France)

If Madrid cannot have Mbappe for now, then his and Benzema's France team-mate Nkunku looks like a strong alternative option. With 34 goals in 51 games for Leipzig this season (prior to Saturday's DFB-Pokal final), Nkunku has proven himself in Germany and in European competition, and the obvious next step is a move to a super-club. The 24-year-old PSG academy graduate pipped the likes of Lewandowski and Erling Haaland to be named the Bundesliga's player of the year, underlining his status as a growing force in the game.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt)

Would they want Salah, or would they prefer his team-mate Sadio Mane? Either way, a Madrid approach could be Liverpool's worst nightmare. Both Salah and Mane have contracts that run to the end of next season, and they have again been tearing it up this term for the quadruple-hunting Reds. They are hot property and are coming to the point where they are considering probably the last bumper contracts of their careers. Would they fit in at Madrid? Both have the flair and finishing class that suggest they would be ideal acquisitions, and Madrid will get a close-up look in the Champions League final.

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  • When Ronaldinho was king: The last time Lionel Messi was out of the Ballon d'Or running When Ronaldinho was king: The last time Lionel Messi was out of the Ballon d'Or running

    Few things will have made football fans feel stranger than seeing Lionel Messi wearing any other club shirt than that of Barcelona.

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    The master before the apprentice

    Before Messi, there was Ronaldinho, a player so captivating in 2005 he even earned a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu from the Real Madrid fans for his performance in El Clasico.

    The Brazilian consistently wowed the crowds with his skill paired with dribbling prowess and the ability to change a game all on his own. 

    Unlike Messi, Ronaldinho did not earn plaudits for scoring incredible numbers of goals, more that he was generally a scorer of beautiful goals in important moments. Across league and Champions League, he scored 13 goals and recorded eight assists in 42 games for Barca in 2004-05.

    That season saw him star for Barca as he won his first LaLiga title, which included providing an assist as a very young Messi scored his first senior goal for the club against Albacete.

    Although Champions League glory would elude him until 2006, Ronaldinho still managed to make a mark even in Barca's first knockout round exit to Chelsea in 2005 as he scored both goals in the 4-2 second leg defeat at Stamford Bridge, including a delightful toe poke that flew past Petr Cech.

    For a player of his undoubted ability, it was a surprise that this was Ronaldinho's only Ballon d'Or, with Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro winning in 2006, Milan maestro Kaka doing so in 2007 and Cristiano Ronaldo lifting the first of many in 2008, starting the era of dominance between him and Messi.

    Two lions unable to roar to success

    Not all that far behind Ronaldinho in the voting back in 2005 were England midfield pair Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

    The Barca man had received 50 votes in all, with Lampard second on 45 and Gerrard third on 39, though the Brazilian was significantly ahead of his two rivals in terms of those who voted him first (with voters marking down their top five in order).

    It had been an excellent year for both Lampard and Gerrard though, with the former a key part of Jose Mourinho's dominant Chelsea who not only won the Premier League at a canter, securing 95 points and finishing 12 ahead of second-place Arsenal, but also dumped Barcelona out of the Champions League.

    However, they in turn were eliminated from the competition in the semi-finals by Gerrard and Liverpool, who went on to lift the cup in Istanbul after a dramatic win on penalties against Milan in the final.

    Had it been the modern day, in all likelihood, Gerrard would have received the most votes given the emphasis placed on winning the Champions League in recent years.

    The Reds captain was a force of nature in 2004-05, dragging Liverpool through several games on his own though, like Ronaldinho, had not been a very regular scorer, only netting seven goals and four assists in 30 Premier League games, and Rafael Benitez's side finished a disappointing fifth.

    Lampard was more of a net botherer though, scoring 13 goals and recording an impressive 18 assists in 38 league games for the Blues on their march to the title.

    Funnily enough, Gerrard and Lampard will face each other as managers on Saturday as Aston Villa host Everton in the Premier League.

    The little engine that would

    Little did the game know what was about to hit it.

    When Messi scored that goal against Albacete on May 1, 2005, it was the birth of a figure who would go on to become arguably the greatest footballer of all time.

    It must be said that the last time Messi was not on what was then a 50-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or, he was just 18 years old, and had been just 17 when he netted his first goal for Barca.

    For the remainder of the year, Messi set about establishing himself as a key part of Barca's attack alongside Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o under the coaching of Frank Rijkaard.

    Messi scored six goals in 17 LaLiga appearances for the Blaugrana in 2005-06, as well as notching his first Champions League goal in a 5-0 win over Panathinaikos at the Camp Nou.

    In 2006, he was tied 20th in the voting for the Ballon d'Or and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Don't bet against seeing his name back on the shortlist in 2023, having already scored three goals in his first two games for PSG this season.

    There is also a World Cup on the horizon, after all.

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